New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio: NJ Will Have to Care for Influx of Homeless Residents If Marijuana Is Legalized

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Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) urged Governor-elect Murphy and legislators to consider the impact legalizing marijuana could have on homelessness in New Jersey, pointing to concerning trends in states that have already legalized the drug.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio urged Governor-elect Murphy and legislators to consider the impact legalizing marijuana could have on homelessness in New Jersey, citing concerning trends in Colorado. (CC0 Public Domain)

“Now that weed is legal in Colorado, homeless people are arriving in droves, while longtime residents are fleeing to other states,” Senator Pennacchio added. “Governor Hickenlooper implored the Colorado Legislature to use marijuana tax dollars to build new housing for the homeless – money that was supposed to pay for law enforcement, healthcare, and treatment. Governor-elect Murphy: don’t be surprised if you’re forced to do the same thing in New Jersey. That revenue you are counting on to pay for your agenda will soon disappear.”

The number of homeless people in New Jersey has gone down 4.6 percent since 2016, but in Colorado, the situation is far worse.

Shortly after legalization, homeless centers quickly reported a drastic increase in people needing shelter, with many new homeless residents stating that they moved to Colorado specifically to access legal marijuana or find a job in the industry.

One shelter reported that as many as 30 percent of new homeless residents moved to Colorado for legal marijuana, according CBS. The crisis has been called “an enormous migration” and a “homeless movement.”

Senator Pennacchio also noted that many New Jersey towns are already fighting a court decision that would force them to build hundreds of new affordable housing units that they simply do not have the space or the infrastructure to support.

“Homelessness is down statewide, but it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that those in New York City will take a quick train ride to New Jersey for legal marijuana,” Senator Pennacchio said. “Who will pay for all of the housing and government subsidies these people will need if and when they decide to stay here permanently? Taxpayers can’t afford it.”

Senator Pennacchio was among the first to speak out against Governor-elect Murphy’s plan to legalize marijuana for recreational use. He has pointed to a rise in crime and an uptick in traffic fatalities in Colorado as reasons not to rush into enacting the policy in New Jersey.

“I urge Governor-elect Murphy and my colleagues in the Legislature not to get starry-eyed with promises of safer streets and good economic times. That is a fantasy,” Senator Pennacchio said. “The reality is that crime, traffic fatalities, and homelessness are all on the rise in Colorado and the state is far from solving its fiscal problems. The reasons not to rush into legalizing weed in New Jersey are far too numerous to ignore.”

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