New Jersey's 39th Legislative District

Senator Gerald Cardinale

Senator Gerald Cardinale

Editorial: Don’t Ignore the Data. Legislators Who Care About Public Safety Must Vote ‘No’ on Marijuana

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The following editorial by Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39) urging opposition to legislation to legalize marijuana was published on Dec. 4, 2018, on NorthJersey.com.

To view the data book on marijuana Senator Cardinale submitted to the officials, legislative staffers, and the media, click here

Sen. Gerald Cardinale’s editorial urging opposition to legislation to legalize marijuana in New Jersey was published on Dec. 4, 2018 on NorthJersey.com. (Pixabay)

At the Nov. 26 committee hearing in Trenton on legalizing marijuana, passion ruled the day. Logic was on vacation. We saw:

Passion … for marijuana tax revenue.

Passion … for power, as most “cannabusinesses” will need a labor union agreement as a condition of licensure.

Passion … for the political contributions that will flow from the extremely-profitable marijuana lobbying industry.

All of this passion made it astonishingly easy for legislators to brush aside our sacred duty to protect the public’s safety and health. Here’s why they must.
I was appalled to see committee members ignore the testimony delivered by Sen. Ron Rice, the leader of New Jersey’s Legislative Black Caucus.

Sen. Rice pointed out that in Colorado and Washington, more minorities are being prosecuted post-legalization. He believes that this would happen in New Jersey, and that crime would also rise.

Sen. Rice is a former police officer. He lives in Newark. Very few legislators can speak with more authority on the issues facing urban communities. I’m inclined to believe him, over high-paid lobbyists.

We should listen to Sen. Rice, and the many other advocates who share his point of view.

We can address the anti-minority bias in marijuana prosecutions, without having to deal with the heartache and trouble caused by legalization.

Let’s switch our focus to decriminalization – a policy that actually has bipartisan support. The measure is sponsored by Sen. Rice and Sen. Bob Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean.)

Decriminalization would pass both houses with ease, but it wouldn’t create marijuana millionaires or raise tax revenue, which means that legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy will continue to refuse to consider it.

Clearly, this is all about money. That is shameful, especially when we know that legalizing marijuana for recreational use puts people’s lives in danger.

Also, in Colorado, there was a 48 percent increase in marijuana-related motor vehicle fatalities after legalization. One of the most compelling witnesses who testified at the committee hearing was the head of the New Jersey Police Chiefs’ organization. He told us how difficult it is to enforce marijuana DUIs.

He stated that there is currently no full-proof, on-the-spot test that can confirm marijuana usage, so unless a lot of taxpayer money is spent in each case, getting an ironclad conviction is unlikely.

Legalization will also impact auto insurance premiums. The reality is that this policy may cost New Jersey drivers more in premium spikes, than it produces in tax revenue.

Meantime, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, also testified at our committee hearing. He is a recovering addict who now lives in New Jersey and has devoted his life to stamping out substance abuse. He too was ignored and treated very discourteously by proponents of this legislation.

One of the biggest lies being told by the proponents is that marijuana is harmless and non-addictive. Wrong. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 25-50 percent of daily marijuana users become addicted.

It’s not just that more adults are using marijuana now. In states where marijuana is legal, children as young as 12-years-old are using marijuana at higher rates than the national average for youth. Enforcement is difficult and costly.

In post-legalization states, mothers are using pot during pregnancy at higher rates. Their children often have low birth weights. That hasn’t stopped New Jersey leaders from ignoring the cries of these children, or from dismissing evidence that many other medical conditions are also aggravated by marijuana usage.

Both Harvard and Northwestern studies show that marijuana can harm the brain. Respected medical journals have shown how the drug can alter one’s perception, behavior, and reaction time.

The psychiatrists who testified at our committee hearing cited even more studies, but the sponsors ignored these experts. I electronically transmitted a data book to every legislator and staffer. Have they read these studies? If so, how could they possibly be in favor of legalization?

There is a reason why the American Medical Association, the Pediatric Society of New Jersey, and a large number of other respected medical and law enforcement organizations continue to oppose this legislation: Marijuana is an addictive drug. It should remain illegal.

I urge readers to please call their legislators and urge them to read the data and vote “no” on legalization.

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