New Jersey Assembly Oversight Committee Has Pot Hearing

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TRENTON, NEW JERSEY: The New Jersey Assembly Oversight Committee held a hearing Monday where legislators introduced a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 years of age and older, according to PBS affiliate NJTV News.

Legislators sought counsel from other states that have already legalized weed. Colorado state Rep. Dan Pabon (D) told the lawmakers that he had previously been against legalizing marijuana and had voted against legislation in the past.

Pabon suggested that New Jersey compile all data involving marijuana statistics in the state for future reference in case marijuana is legalized. He also recommended legalization and said that Colorado was successful legalizing marijuana while keeping the drug away from traffickers and minors, adding that people need to be convinced who won't use marijuana that they would still benefit from the tax revenue, saying "they just want to know where the taxes are going."

Other marijuana advocates agree that legalizing marijuana could help to end drug cartels trafficking marijuana, decrease drug arrests and free up law enforcement resources for more serious crimes, as well as help the state's economy.

Captain of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Todd Raybuck disagrees, claiming that marijuana seizures from the illegal market in Nevada have increased by 47 percent. Other people opposed to the bill say that legalization will increase drug use in the state.

Gov. Phil Murphy used marijuana legalization as part of his campaign for the gubernatorial race and is determined to write legislation that would force decreased discrimination for drug-related arrests by legalizing recreational marijuana and also free up law enforcement resources.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D) agrees with Murphy and has introduced legislation that would legalize marijuana. Scutari's proposal would make possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana and six marijuana plants legal in the state.

The Division of Marijuana Enforcement would also be implemented as part of the legislation and would be responsible for regulating the marijuana market. There would be a 7 percent sales tax that would increase to 25% over a 5-year interval. The committee will hold 3 additional hearings this spring.

State May Remove Pot from the Same Classification as Heroin

The Division of Consumer Affairs in New Jersey announced February 27 that they will withdraw its appeal from the Superior Court Appellate Division decision, which ruled the Division can reconsider the states' marijuana classifications. By withdrawing the appeal, the Division is now free to reconsider if marijuana has any medical uses which could prompt a reclassification of the drug.

The press release stated that when the state first implemented the federal government's classification of the marijuana, the medical benefits of the drug were unknown. The release acknowledges that marijuana has potential therapeutic value.

The Appellate Division is not advocating for marijuana to be rescheduled but conceded that now was the time to evaluate medical marijuana.

The Division of Consumer Affairs is authorized to reclassify marijuana under the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Law and schedules drugs based on a 1 to 5 scale. Schedule 1 is the most dangerous classification and is considered to be a narcotic with no medicinal value. Other schedule-1 drugs include cocaine, LSD, and heroin.

The intentions of the Division of Consumer Affairs is to get feedback from scientists, marijuana experts, and the public before figuring out how to proceed with regard to reclassifying marijuana. The press release states that they will consider all evidence before making decisions on reclassifying marijuana. Any decision made by the Division will only reclassify marijuana, not legalize it.