Opinion: with state legalization on the ballot, the choice is clear

November 2, 2020

The+candidates+for+the+Board+of+Chosen+Freeholders

Infographic by Tomer Goldfinger and Emily Boyle

The candidates for the Board of Chosen Freeholders

For many New Jersey residents, voting in the upcoming election can seem futile. New Jersey is virtually guaranteed to go Democratic in the general election and with the current electoral system, this means all of New Jersey’s votes will go toward Joe Biden. However, it’s important to remember that there are many local and state issues also on the ballot, including the state ballot questions, notably legalizing marijuana. In a country where hundreds of thousands of people are arrested due to marijuana related offenses, it is imperative that New Jersey citizens vote “yes” on the first ballot question: “do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis?”.

From a scientific perspective, there is little evidence that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, two recreationally legal substances in New Jersey. In fact, a Scientific Reports study done in 2015 on the recreational use of 10 drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes, found marijuana to be the safest drug. Although marijuana has clear downsides such as negative effects on an adolescent brain (the ballot question is for ages 21 and older), a legal substance like tobacco is considered the leading cause of preventable death in America. There is no logical scientific reason that one substance should be illegal, while the other is not.

Furthermore, legalizing marijuana will decrease many of the risks associated with the drug because of the ability to regulate it. Since more than half of US adults have tried marijuana despite its federally illegal status, it’s safe to say the legal status of the substance won’t prevent people from using it. There is no way to track where marijuana from illegal dealers has been; it can be laced with nearly anything. If it’s legalized, all marijuana can be properly regulated, with health warnings, concentration of THC, and more. Many states have even shown decreased minor use of marijuana after it’s legalization, with Colorado’s minor marijuana rate dropping 12% only 2 years after its legalization.

Legal marijuana use will also weaken many cartels and organized gangs, with the US border patrol reporting the lowest marijuana seizures in over a decade. Money that is currently not taxable and unaccounted for will be circulating within the state economy, creating jobs and boosting the New Jersey economy during this pandemic; taxpayers will no longer have to fund millions of dollars into police resources to enforce marijuana laws.

This election day is more than just Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump. Improving the federal government is incredibly important, but improving the local government is too. Nobody should be serving prison time for a recreational drug and NJ citizens have a chance to make that a reality on November 3rd. Please take the time out to educate yourself on the three ballot questions before casting your vote.

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