August 22, 2019 | 81° F

It’s high time to legalize marijuana

Editorial | Public opinion in favor of eliminating penalties for recreational use

The times they are a-changin’, and most of New Jersey is now in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. We think it’s time for some serious policy action is taken to make the penalties for recreational use less severe. But before you roll your eyes and dismiss this as just so typical of a bunch of college kids at a liberal university, take a look at the statistics.

More and more people across different demographics are now in favor of eliminating penalties for the possession of marijuana. Voters in New Jersey reflect the overall national trend of a more relaxed attitude about marijuana decriminalization.

According to a recent Eagleton poll, 65 percent of voters in New Jersey now support the decriminalization of marijuana. This is the complete reverse of public opinion in 1972, when 56 percent of voters were opposed to it.

We think it’s about time New Jersey takes steps toward legalization to set an example of a state that has a more moderate stance and culture regarding marijuana use. In general, the state has some of the strictest laws on the use of alcohol and tobacco, and it will probably be just as strict with marijuana if it is legalized. Medicinal marijuana is legal in New Jersey, but it’s still difficult to get and the regulations in place to prevent its abuse are relatively effective. Assuming there will be appropriate regulations in place, there seems to be some clear benefits to legalizing marijuana.  

The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association supports legalization because of the unfair punishment for those caught with marijuana that completely ruins their futures. Jail time is not a reasonable penalty for smoking weed, especially when the consequences for underage drinking are not nearly as harsh.

Of course, there are the usual opponents of legalization who claim that even decriminalizing marijuana will create an out-of-control culture where everyone’s just walking around smoking pot. But that’s because the states in the country that we look to as examples are Colorado and California — states that already have a much more laid-back lifestyle than we do in New Jersey and the East Coast in general. We think it’s pretty safe to say that legalizing pot is not going to have such a significant impact on our state’s culture.

And for those who try to argue about the health implications of smoking pot — how much long-term research has really been done anyway? There isn’t enough conclusive evidence on either side of the issue for a discussion to be had about the effects and implications of smoking marijuana on the same level as alcohol and tobacco use. Having some government control over weed should mean more funding and research on possible health effects, and proper public education in the same way that we learn about responsible drinking and the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Plus, there will probably be as heavy a tax on marijuana as there is on tobacco, which would be its own deterrent.

Voters in New Jersey are clearly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, and we think the next logical step after that would be to legalize it altogether. By opening up the discussion about weed and encouraging appropriate forms of regulation for it, we’re confident that New Jersey will find a middle ground and safe ways to compromise on marijuana use.

By The Daily Targum

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