New Jersey will reap approximately $300 million in annual tax revenue after legalizing recreational marijuana, but that's not the top reason why Governor-elect Phil Murphy wants to repeal pot prohibition in the Garden State.
"The principal reason, and the most important reason for us to pursue this [legalization] is social justice," Murphy said yesterday on FOX 5. "New Jersey has the widest white/non-white gap of persons incarcerated in America. I say this as much as a former national board member of the NAACP as I do as a governor-elect."
He added that the "biggest contributing factor" to that problem is "low-end drug crime" such as possessing marijuana. In fact, non-whites are three times more likely than whites to be busted for marijuana possession even though both groups have similar rates of cannabis use, according to the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP. So repealing marijuana prohibition could end the racial bias in state law enforcement.
Some might argue that decriminalization would be a better option, but Murphy says that step isn't enough because decriminalization allows criminals to continue operating a market that does nothing to keep cannabis away from kids.
"It's in our midst," he added. "So the option is, do you not regulate it — not accept it inside of a framework and still have it exposed to our kids? Decriminalization allows it to stay in the hands of the bad guys."
If Murphy succeeds, New Jersey will become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature instead of by ballot initiative.
Legalizing marijuana was one of Murphy's top policy platforms during the 2017 election, when he campaigned against the 'Reefer Madness' rhetoric of his predecessor — Chris Christie. Meanwhile, pro-legalization lawmakers like State Senator Nicholas Scutari have been working hard to get a legalization bill to the new governor's desk within the first hundred days of the new administration. Murphy will be sworn in on January 17, so that means the Garden State could be even greener by April 2018.
h/t FOX 5
Banner Image: Phil Murphy (flickr)