Colorado field trip convinces N.J. delegation legalizing pot could work in Garden State

An employee places marijuana for sale into glass containers at The Station

An employee places marijuana for sale into glass containers at The Station

Nine New Jersey lawmakers who visited Colorado last week to examine that state’s marijuana industry said they found nothing that gives them misgivings about legalizing pot in the Garden State.

Republican Sen. Kip Bateman said the trip was an eye opener.

“What really struck me is not only are overdoses way down but so are DUIs and so is crime,” said Bateman, R-Somerset. “And that’s so important in this state because in Hunterdon County and Ocean County is an epidemic right now, the overdoses with heroin, and [Colorado has] actually seen a decrease.”

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said he was impressed with how well Colorado’s program is working.

“Still, I’m going to be sitting down with some folks that have already contacted me while I was Denver to talk about the cons,” he said. “Some of the people that are against marijuana legalization put out a lot of horror stories about accidents, children’s use, and none of that is manifesting itself.”

Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt, chair of the Assembly Children Committee, said Colorado is taking precautions to make sure marijuana products don’t look like something that would be readily consumed by a child.

“They’ve created their own warning stamp to be able to go on each and every product so, visually, these products look completely different than a regular brownie, than a regular cookie, than a regular gummy bear,” said Lampitt, D-Camden.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said the trip convinced him the industry can be safely regulated, and he’s committed to legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Jersey.

“We’re going to have a new governor in January of ’18, and as soon as the governor gets situated, if we’re all still here, we intend to move quickly on it,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

Gov. Chris Christie has said many times he opposes legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Medicinal marijuana was approved in the state about seven years ago.

Assemblyman Majority Leader Lou Greenwald said a lot of work remains before marijuana legalization legislation could be enacted in New Jersey.

“The best chance of getting this done in 2018 is the diligent, methodical, thoughtful approach that will identify what are the hardships, what are risks, what are the benefits, and change what have become societal norms or philosophies that have really dominated generations, said Greenwald, D-Camden.

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