Following the past election, America added three locations to the list of areas which have legalized marijuana. Previously, the States of Colorado and Washington were the first two areas in the United States to decriminalize the use and sale of marijuana by regulating it. Now, The United States has added the states of Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia to the list of legal pot areas. Despite what seems to be a never ending dispute over the health risks, Colorado and Washington have both seen some incredible economic benefits. For example, Colorado was able to create more than 18,000 jobs through the regulation of marijuana, and the state expects to generate about $90 million or more in marijuana tax revenue every year. This has specifically benefitted Colorado so much to the point where the state will be distributing tax rebates due to the state ending the fiscal year with a surplus.
This could be New Jersey. For residents of the Garden State, this sounds far-fetched, and that’s because it is under Chris Christie’s administration. On March 27, 2014 New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill to legalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. The bill was essentially dead on arrival due to the Governor’s clear fear of such a move tarnishing a possible 2016 run for the White House.
Under Scutari’s bill, 70% of the tax revenue generated from marijuana would be deposited into New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, 20% into the Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund, and 10% dedicated to women’s health. Also, this bill is clear that sale and use of marijuana should only be warranted by persons of at least 21 years of age. I agree with this. An age restriction should be imposed equivalent to what is already imposed on alcohol. Children and teenagers do not need to be influenced by marijuana.
Although New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is considerably in as bad shape as its Pension Fund, I don’t necessarily believe that a possible $63 million of what could be $90 million for New Jersey should be dedicated permanently to the Transportation Trust fund, or any specific account for that matter. If New Jersey should decide to create a Marijuana economy, such legislation should allow for the fluid movement of these funds to address specific economic needs, wherever and whenever they may arise. In other words, Marijuana legislation should occur annually in New Jersey, so that the Assembly and Senate approve the year’s use of the marijuana tax, just like they annually approve a budget. For such a new and desperately needed source of money, I simply find it to be unwise to not allow the possibility for New Jersey to use such revenue in large amounts in other accounts, such as providing better funding for, or even rebuilding, its public schools.
This new kind of revenue could also allow New Jersey to more easily adopt and fund a College Payment Program.
If New Jersey does plan to eventually pursue such an economy, I suggest that the State’s legislators act fast, since it may turn into a situation in which New Jersey is surrounded by States that have proceeded to legalize a marijuana economy, and the Garden State hasn’t. This would create a mass exodus of New Jersey’s spending dollars to it’s neighbors, thus multiplying and amplifying New Jersey’s current economic woes.
Retroactively thinking, New Jersey could have held somewhat of a monopoly on the marijuana industry in the much more populous Northeast, if Senator Scutari’s bill was given a chance. Now, it appears that the District of Columbia will strangely take advantage of that monopoly, unless New Jersey moves in on the game, which from an economic perspective, it clearly should.