New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Highlights Growing Concerns About Marijuana Legalization

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Urges Governor Murphy to Slow His Rush to Legalize It

Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) urged Governor Phil Murphy to slow his rush to legalize marijuana in New Jersey citing growing concerns about the impact of such a drastic move on young people and already struggling communities.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio urged Gov. Phil Murphy to slow his rush to legalize marijuana in New Jersey citing growing concerns about potential negative impacts. (Pixabay)

“A few months ago it seemed inevitable that legalized marijuana would be approved in New Jersey,” said Pennacchio. “Today, however, a growing number of legislators and policymakers, including at least one member of Governor Murphy’s transition team, are expressing opposition to marijuana legalization. It’s no longer clear that legalization has the support needed to clear the Legislature.”

Pennacchio said that as possible votes on legalization appeared more likely with the new administration taking office, many have started to seriously consider the real potential impacts for the first time.

“It’s clear that once people look in earnest at the negative consequences of marijuana legalization in places like Colorado, it becomes impossible to not imagine those harmful impacts in our own communities in New Jersey,” Pennacchio said. “It’s not all high times as supporters of legalization would have you think.”

Pennacchio pointed in particular to the strong opposition expressed by Bishop Jethro C. James, Jr., a member of the governor’s transition committee for “Law and Justice.”

“As a member of the gubernatorial transition team, it must have been difficult for Bishop James to take such a strong stance against marijuana legalization,” added Pennacchio. “I applaud the Bishop for so clearly articulating the dangers of marijuana to young people and communities that already face difficult challenges. I can only hope that Governor Murphy will heed his advice and slow his rush to legalization.”

Among the concerns expressed by Bishop James was a substantial increase in marijuana arrests of African-American (+58%) and Hispanic (+29%) children, and a decrease in arrests of White (-8%) children, reported by the Colorado Department of Public Safety following legalization.

Overall, the report shows that arrests of African-Americans for marijuana-related offenses in Colorado were nearly triple those of Whites in 2014.

Use of marijuana by children aged 12 to 17 in Colorado was found to be 74% higher than the national average in the two years after legalization.

“For those who claim a ‘social justice’ benefit will accrue to minority communities as a result of legalization, the data from Colorado seems to indicate otherwise,” added Pennacchio. “If Governor Murphy and other legislators rush continue to rush forward based on anecdotes rather than facts, they’ll likely be surprised by the unexpected harm that results.”

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