TRENTON, N.J. – This week New Jerseyans picked a new governor with vastly different views from outgoing Gov. Chris Christie on marijuana.
Governor-elect Phil Murphy wants a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana on his desk within 100 days and the pot industry is getting ready to do business.
“People want to be involved, it’s an exciting time for sure,” says Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association which formed earlier this year.
This week the Association announced it’s been flooded with interest since Murphy’s election.
Rudder says based on sales in other states – New Jersey could support a $2-$3 billion dollar pot industry.
“From an industry perspective we’re talking tens of thousands of brand new jobs,” says Rudder.
Supporters of legalization say pot sales could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue and cut down on low-level drug arrests.
A September poll by Quinnipiac University found 59 percent of New Jerseyans are okay with legalizing pot for personal use but in the coming months there will be many groups pushing back against the legalization of marijuana.
There are numerous organizations that have fought for years to keep drugs out of kids’ hands.
“When they become desensitized to it there’s more of a likelihood that they’re going to try it,” says former DARE officer Joseph Conlin who is a prevention educator with Prevention Plus of Burlington County.
Drug prevention experts say legalizing marijuana for adults would make children and teens more likely to try it.
“Kids will get access,” says Conlin, “they get alcohol from their home and if mom and dad or someone in the home is using marijuana they’ll have access to that as well.”
A bill to legalize marijuana has already been introduced in by Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari.
Expect passionate debate in the coming months.