ANGELINI: Legalized marijuana wrong for N.J.

Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R - Monmouth) has been a tireless collaborator and friend of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. She recently published an op-ed in the Asbury Park Press declaring legalizing marijuana as the wrong move for New Jersey. Below are her words.

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Imagine a world in which tourists visit Monmouth County towns like Asbury Park not for the beaches and historic boardwalk, but to get stoned on super potent "legal" marijuana. Homeless young people flocking to our area to do drugs without fear of repercussions. Stores in downtown Red Bank or Freehold offering an array of pot-laced products like candy bars and ice cream which not only lure adult users, but are also quite appealing to children.

In this world, hospitals like Jersey Shore University Medical Center or Monmouth Medical Center would likely treat the increasing number of patients suffering from marijuana intoxication as well as the children admitted to the intensive care units after ingesting their parents' pot-infused candy.

And while area schools deal with students selling pot edibles they bring from home, local police departments dedicate law enforcement resources to combating stoned drivers on our local roadways.

But these are nothing more than far-fetched scenarios perpetuated by the "Reefer Madness" crowd, right? Wrong. These are actual real-life issues taking place in states like Colorado which are being forced to confront the very real and very harmful consequences of legal marijuana. And they could happen here in New Jersey if a recently announced coalition succeeds in its efforts to legalize marijuana in our state.

Despite the recent successes of the legalization forces, there is little debate among the medical and scientific community that marijuana is a harmful, addictive drug. That is why legalization is opposed by nearly all of the country's major public health associations. It's also why marijuana is still classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as an illegal drug throughout the U.S.

Nonetheless, many states have bowed to the legalization push for a variety of reasons, including the promise of untold millions in tax revenues from legalized pot as well as a presumed reduction in law enforcement costs. Unfortunately, many of these hoped for benefits have not lived up to the rosy predictions of the pro-pot advocates.

In fact, Colorado sales tax revenues have fallen well short of expectations and, according to the state's Attorney General, Colorado still has a vibrant marijuana black market and many marijuana-related crimes have not decreased. It's no wonder that she recently said marijuana legalization is "not worth it" and is also why legislation has been introduced to provide funding to deal with the increased societal and law enforcement costs that have resulted from legalization.

Moreover, those pushing legalization rarely mention — nor do they dispute —the significant effects marijuana has on its users and, in particular, on young people. For instance, they don't talk about the high school students who told researchers that they were more likely to use marijuana if it were legal. Nor do they talk about how heavy pot use impairs the developing brain or the one in six young people who become addicted to this drug.

Instead they like to point to other states and focus on the supposed cost savings, increased tax revenues or benefits to society as a whole — all of which have proven elusive to states like Colorado that have already gone down this dangerous path.

Legalization advocates in New Jersey say they will look to other states' experiences with legal pot. Policymakers, including my colleagues in the Legislature, would be wise to do the same. What they will surely find is that legalizing marijuana is wrong for New Jersey and, like they are realizing in Colorado, is just not worth it.

Mary Pat Angelini, R-Monmouth, is a state assemblywoman who represents the 11th Legislative District.

Comments

Barbara Sprechman
Posted 4/1/2015 10:09 AM

Mary Pat has hit the nail right on the head! Not enough legislators are talking about this very important topic! Our Governor has said legalized recreational use of marijuana will not happen in New Jersey "on his watch", but what happens when we have a new Governor? We may see Pandora's box open then! We must educate the public and our legislators now and take action where we can!

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