PotLeaf-fbcover-LegalizeIt

#LegalizeItNJ: A Movement Needing Traction

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This past Monday, pot enthusiasts swarmed the statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey – Chris Christie’s second home after some Town Hall venue in New Hampshire – with a simple message: legalize marijuana.

In March 2014, Democratic State Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill that would legalize and treat marijuana like alcohol for any adult over the age of 21. Finally, after all the hard work of the past two years that consisted of implementing new baby car seat rules ‘and’ somehow getting more money out of our pockets, it was finally time for the bill to get some forward traction. A hearing took place.

Yes, a hearing. Basically it was a orgy of people wanting to legalize a plant to some small degree – or large depending on who you were – to which some people on the judiciary committee were a bit upset that the only opinions that were heard were of people wanting to legalize this plant.

Sounds like a dandy, good old time.

See, this concept isn’t difficult to understand: Freedom. Liberty. Nature.

Try explaining this concept to some Republican, though, and all of a sudden they are worried about you getting cancer. Or herpes. Or maybe one of your lungs will fall off. Or maybe you’ll end up dancing naked in the street with cancer and herpes which would make a liberal rip one of your lungs off.

Thanks, but no thanks.

The point of marijuana legalization isn’t about the health benefits. The point of ending the drug war isn’t about the health benefits. The point is that by reducing the size and scope of government and reinforcing the long held American belief in life, liberty, and property, in an area which hasn’t seen a reduction in the size and scope of government in more than 50 years would produce better economic, criminal, cultural, and social behavior going forward.

The fact that a majority of the people at the hearing presented biased opinions toward the committee is a bleeding fact that there are few opponents willing strip life, liberty, and property from so many. Could they have picked only pro-marijuana people? Yes. Could they have picked some opponents to marijuana legalization? Yes. But what new arguments do they have? Harmful carbon footprint? More regulation needed by the FDA? The arguments are weak and usually are riddled with anti-legalization propaganda. And we’ve all seen and heard them: carcinogens, smoke, brain, bad are usually high on the trigger word list. Conversely, proponents have a better argument every time they light one up – or have some edibles- it seems.

So yes, while the hearing in Trenton was a good first step, it meant nothing. Scutari and many of the proponents of this hearing – which was one of the first in the nation (for good measure too) – latched onto the narrative that this is a starting point. Scutari even went as far to admit that nothing would really get done for a few more years. The hearing was a good political show, but it should have happened on March 25, 2014.

The failure of the state legislature in New Jersey to act on marijuana legalization should preclude every member from running on a record of representing the people, regardless on what office they seek. For nearly two years, the party that claims to support marijuana legalization has held both the assembly and the senate – both of which are required to pass a bill, override a veto, and place a ballot initiative on the November ballot – failed to represent the people of New Jersey. Although making this out to be a partisan issue is silly and undermines the whole “small government” thing the Republican party had going for a while (still wondering what happened there), it’s really eye opening when it comes to marijuana legalization. Democrats have done nothing. Republicans have refused to see this as anything but a Dr. Phil episode about health risks associated with life and insist they want Dr. Oz for the second opinion.

Let’s get over the politics and do something about it. The people who get arrested every day for having a plant and for putting a flame on that plant cannot wait a few more years for the politicians in Trenton to stop taking the pharmaceutical lobbying money. The people who got arrested today, and yesterday and the people who will get arrested tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day can’t wait a few more years for Trenton to give rights back to the people. It needs to happen now. By Republicans and by Democrats.

New Jersey shouldn’t be ashamed of legalizing marijuana: it should be proud. For once, making government smaller never seemed to resonate so far and wide in the deep, big government Garden State.

An aspiring filmmaker with a passion for liberty-minded politics, Charles Barr resides in Monmouth County, New Jersey and graduated Montclair State University with a double major in communication and political science. Charles has volunteered for various campaigns including Ron Paul for President in 2012, Steve Lonegan for US Senate, and Brian Goldberg for US Senate. In addition to politics, Charles was the assistant director for the feature length film, My Brother’s Girlfriend that was accepted to the 2015 New York Film Festival. He previously interned for Congressman Tom MacArthur and volunteered for Q Rim for State Assembly.

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