Murphy’s Marijuana Mandate: Phil Murphy’s Marijuana Plan may Unite New Jersey

By AJ Melillo, Assistant Opinion Editor

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Hand Holding Small Marijuana Leaf with Cannabis Plants in Background.
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy won the New Jersey governor’s race on Tuesday, Nov. 7. While most conservatives and I disagree with a number of his policies, Murphy does have one idea that I do agree with, which looks to try and improve the state’s economy: the legalization of marijuana.

If Murphy fulfills his campaign promise to legalize marijuana, it will make New Jersey the ninth state in the country to legalize the drug for recreational use. He believes that the legalization and taxation of weed will give our state a huge boost economically.

A 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says states spend around 3.6 billion dollars a year enforcing laws against marijuana. If you ask me, that is way too much to spend on non-violent criminals that will just jam up our court system and take up space in our prisons. If we can cut that spending every year, then we will take a large burden off of our taxpayers. Along with cutting our spending, if we impose a tax on the sale of marijuana, we can get an influx of money into our economy, allowing our state to lower property taxes. Fortune.com reports that in 2016, Colorado surpassed $1 billion in legal marijuana sales; therefore, the government makes about $200 million in tax revenue.

According to a July, 2017 CNNmoney article, “Revenue from taxes and fees has increased each year, from $76 million in 2014 to $200 million last year, and the state is on track to beat that this year,” according to a report conducted by VS Strategies. The article also states, “In addition to the sales tax of 2.9%, the state charges an excise tax of 15% and a special sales tax of 10%, plus license and application fees…”

If the state of New Jersey implements a similar tax plan on marijuana, combined with the $3.6 billion we are saving from not imprisoning people, we will have an estimated $3.8 billion revenue increase. That is over 10% of our 2018 budget, according to the New Jersey budget report. With this added revenue, we would be able to pay for all of the executive operations in our state. Even if we pay for the operation of our executive government, which totals $3.6 billion, we are left with $200 million to put toward drug safety and addiction prevention programs.

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The concerns that most people have with the legalization of marijuana are the adverse health effects that the drug has on young people.

The high that one gets when smoking marijuana is due to the THC exciting the brain’s reward system that releases extreme amounts of dopamine, which in turn makes one more calm and happy. This overabundance of dopamine is not good for the developing mind. The foreign chemicals in the young brain can have an adverse effect on how it develops, especially if the person uses the drug regularly. It can make people more depressed when they are not high, leading to an addiction to the high even if nothing in the drug is addictive, like nicotine in cigarettes.

In my opinion we should legalize marijuana like we have legalized tobacco and alcohol: only those 21 and older should be allowed to purchase it. If someone is underage and is caught smoking, they should be subject to the same consequences as if they are caught drinking underage. Along with that, if they are caught driving under the influence of marijuana, it should also have the same rules as drinking and driving.

Marijuana could be a great asset to our state’s economy and if implemented correctly we can use that added revenue to lower property taxes in our state to bring more people into New Jersey, which would again, add revenue to our economy. Hopefully, Murphy roles out this legalization plan effectively by cutting our insanely high taxes along with adding this new revenue.

In all, there are some potential upsides to New Jersey having elected a democratic governor. While I’m not necessarily a fan of many of the left’s political proposals, that does not mean that I believe Murphy cannot accomplish anything good for our state. On the other hand, I am looking forward to the good that might come from his administration and hoping that it brings prosperity back to New Jersey, which is something that I believe Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike can all get behind.

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