N.J. could reap $300 million annually by legalizing recreational pot, proponents say

LivWell store manager Carlyssa Scanlon shows off some of the products available in the marijuana line marketed by rapper Snopp Dogg in one of the marijuana chain's outlets south of downtown Denver. Advocates of legalizing recreational pot in New Jersey say the Garden State could reap about $300 million a year through taxes on such products. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski

LivWell store manager Carlyssa Scanlon shows off some of the products available in the marijuana line marketed by rapper Snopp Dogg in one of the marijuana chain's outlets south of downtown Denver. Advocates of legalizing recreational pot in New Jersey say the Garden State could reap about $300 million a year through taxes on such products. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Though Gov. Chris Christie opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use, some groups are urging New Jersey lawmakers to consider the move to provide more money for the state budget.

Legalizing and taxing marijuana would raise at least $300 million a year for the state, according to Ari Rosmarin, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

“It’s time that New Jersey move from wasteful criminalization to revenue generation. It’s time to stop waiting. There’s no reason to let another budget cycle pass by,” he said Tuesday. “Every single day that we don’t do this is another day that the illegal market continues to flourish.”

Brandon McKoy, an analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that if the state were to start with a low tax rate on pot products, it would undercut the street price for illegal marijuana.

“You’ll get people comfortable participating in the legal market, and they’ll come to be very familiar with and appreciative of the benefits of it being a safe place, ensuring the health and the safety of the product,” McKoy said. “Then, as they get comfortable and we bring more people into that, we can tax it at a more responsible rate.”

Legalization would also save the state about $125 million a year in the costs of enforcing marijuana laws, supporters said.

Bill Caruso with New Jersey United For Marijuana Reform also said legalizing recreational use would benefit patients in the state’s medical marijuana program

“We have a legalized medicinal system in our state that is broken,” he said. “Doctors who are starting to understand the profound benefits in broad, broad areas of medicine on the impact of medicinal marijuana are still reluctant to prescribe.”

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