Opponents Make Late-Minute Push To Stop Legal Pot In New Jersey

September 24, 2018 - 7:56 pm

TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- New Jersey is getting closer and closer to legalizing marijuana but there's now an 11th hour appeal to stop that from happening.

"Why we would want to expand drug use at a time when we have an opioid epidemic is beyond me," said Kevin Sabet, who worked in the Obama White House as a drug policy adviser. "The pot that you might have smoked in college in nothing like what is being proposed to be sold here in New Jersey and commercialized here in New Jersey as well."

He is now the head of a group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana and he's advocating for pot decriminalization, not legalization and has been making his pitch in Trenton.

"I think a lot of lawmakers, especially on the Democratic side, they're very torn because they don't want to go against the priority of their governor but they know in their heart and in their gut that legalizing and commercializing and promoting marijuana is a bad thing for their constituents," Sabet said.

Someone who agrees with this thinking is State Sen. Ronald Rice, who heads the Legislative Black Caucus.

The Newark Democrat says his own party leaders have been rushing things.

"They're moving so rapidly to try to pressure the governor and the Senate and the Assembly to pass something before you can really have the real public debate on decriminalization," said Rice, who co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize pot. He says Colorado and other states have shown legalization has plenty of negative consequences.

Meanwhile, the governor and Senate president have missed several of their own deadlines to get a bill passed.

But lawmakers are reportedly close to finalizing a bill to legalize pot with the only hangup being the tax rate.