New Jersey Marijuana Legalization: Governor Christie Expected to Sit on It
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Two greenhouses equipped to grow cannabis sit in Belvidere and Lincoln Park, New Jersey waiting for Governor Chris Christie to decriminalize and legalize the plant-based drug .
"There are currently three medical marijuana dispensaries but only one is operational," said Derek Peterson, co-owner of Terra Tech (TRTC) , a horticulture equipment and commercial agriculture company. "The medical marijuana program has been sabotaged by the Christie administration so we're waiting for the next governor."
Until then, Peterson is making good use of the facilities by growing non marijuana-related herbs and leafy greens like basil and mint.
"We sell to local grocery stores, but once marijuana is legalized in New Jersey, we plan on changing the seed and growing cannabis," said Peterson, who also owns a cannabis dispensary in Oakland.
Pot laws may change in the Garden State sooner rather than later now that Democratic Senator Nicholas Scutari from Union County, New Jersey is sponsoring legislation that will introduce legalizing and taxing marijuana .
"So far Senate President Stephen Sweeney has indicated his support for the measure but wants to learn from the successes and mistakes of states like Colorado and Washington," Peterson told MainStreet. "With the New Jersey legislature being as supportive as they are, the state could be among the first few Northeastern states once we have a new Governor in office."
Senator Scutari is holding a press conference Monday afternoon at the statehouse to discuss how the legislation would work.
"New Jersey will have a hard time passing up the tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis as well as money saved from not having to prosecute people because of possession," said Darrin C. Duber-Smith, professor with Metropolitan State University in Denver. "There's a lot of savings in not putting people through the justice system of courts, prison and probation but it would require a change in New Jersey's current criminal code."
Governor Christie, a Republican, has reportedly said he won't sign legislation that legalizes marijuana possession.
"The first challenge is convincing Chris Christie that he should get out of the way of reform efforts and let New Jersey voters decide how to regulate cannabis," said Michael Chazukow, outreach director with National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in New Jersey.
For now, non-medical possession or use of cannabis fall under very strict laws.
"We have a medical marijuana program that is so restrictive it is failing to serve the needs of its patients," Chazukow told MainStreet. "There are medical marijuana refugees fleeing New Jersey for Colorado to get quality access to their medicine. Patients who aren't registered with the state risk arrest and being denied treatment if caught."
Scutari reportedly modeled his legalization legislation after the state of Colorado's law, which legalized recreational marijuana on January 1.