Don’t let Big Marijuana profit at expense of communities 3 January 2018
The Point Pleasant Beach Borough Council last week unanimously approved a full ban on marijuana sales, saying that the marijuana industry has no place in its family-friendly community.

New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy (NJ-RAMP) — a grassroots coalition of medical doctors, community groups, drug prevention professionals, business owners, law enforcement officers and parents — commends borough officials for adopting this common-sense measure. As the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana continues to be debated in Trenton, we expect many other municipalities to follow suit.

Why would any local official welcome an industry to their town that seeks to profit at the expense of their residents, particularly children? Make no mistake, marijuana legalization brings a new Big Tobacco-type industry to New Jersey that comes with a multitude of public health concerns, including addiction, youth drug use, increased motor vehicle accidents and higher numbers of minority arrests. And with the Garden State in the grips of an opioid crisis, we cannot forget that the CDC has found that marijuana users are nearly three times more likely to be addicted to heroin.

Local officials also need to be concerned with the impact of increased marijuana use on the roads. Pot-related car crashes continue to skyrocket in the era of legalization and widespread commercialization of marijuana. In Colorado, marijuana-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes have more than doubled since 2013, the year after the state voted to legalize recreational use of the drug, according to an analysis by the Denver Post. That same study also found that Colorado saw a 40 percent increase in the number of all drivers involved in fatal crashes between 2013 and 2016, and a 145 percent increase in the number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes in the same period.

Additionally, we’ve seen significant proof that marijuana legalization is not the step forward for social justice we have been promised. In fact, it’s just the opposite, as the marijuana industry routinely targets vulnerable communities as its profit centers. Just take a look at Denver, where the number of pot shops is greater than the number of McDonalds and Starbucks combined. According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, in the two years after Colorado legalized marijuana, the number of Hispanic and black kids arrested for marijuana-related offenses rose 29 and 58 percent, respectively. In the same period, the number of white kids being arrested for identical crimes dropped 8 percent.

So why are some politicians still advocating for the commercialization of Big Marijuana? Some say that legalizing and taxing the drug will result in increased budget revenues for the state. In Colorado, tax revenue gained from marijuana was much smaller than promised and the Denver Post reported pot taxes wouldn’t solve the state’s budget problems. But the revenue argument doesn’t take into account the long-term, well-documented costs of increased marijuana use on communities. A recent study showed the public health costs of legalization are at least 125 percent of all revenues collected. These expenses come from workplace accidents, stoned driving crashes and hospital admissions

Local officials in Point Pleasant Beach and other towns are right to stop the marijuana industry from wreaking havoc on their communities. While NJ-RAMP supports common-sense policies such as decriminalization, we urge New Jersey’s legislators to put the brakes on the widespread legalization of recreational marijuana. New Jersey cannot afford another Big Tobacco industry profiting at the expense of our communities, families and children.
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