The expressed opinions or views of this letter does not necessarily represent the opinion of the MiddletownMike blog:
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) announced that he plans to visit Colorado to look at the legal pot industry there. But Colorado would be a poor model for New Jersey, because their pot taxes are too high, in addition to an overly regulated licensing system that would lead to more political corruption in the Soprano State. Not to mention all the 18-20 year old adults there still face a criminal record for pot, due to a silly 21 age requirement marketing ploy, designed to make voters link pot to alcohol.
New Jersey should not rush into a "recreational" model but instead expand the medical marijuana law to cover all conditions, allow physicians to utilize telemedicine to issue cannabis recommendations, abolish the mandatory patient registry, and allow non-residents to get a recommendation in New Jersey. This would allow someone from NYC or Philly to come to New Jersey, talk to a Doctor on their iPhone like FaceTime, and head into the dispensary.
We also need public and social smoking spaces in New Jersey. While New Jersey allows medical marijuana patients to light up anywhere tobacco smokers can, Colorado went overboard and banned public consumption (in their eyes, pretty much anywhere other than a private residence). The law went largely unenforced until the "recreational" law was passed and since then, Colorado police are pot smoking ticket happy again. Colorado has also created a new ticket for an "open container" of marijuana in a car - but a homegrown plant doesn't come in a container. This kind of silly lawmaking is the result of Colorado's idea of "recreational" regulation. I call it a red tape nightmare for something that is supposed to have been legalized.
New Jersey needs to have dispensaries with relaxing smoking lounges on the boardwalk in places like Atlantic City, Asbury Park, and Sea Bright. Not silly Colorado-style laws stopping legitimate places from getting off the ground.
Dennis Peron, a co-author of Proposition 215, California's medical marijuana law passed in 1996 (largely in response to his friends and lovers dying of AIDS) has told me and stated publicly that he believes all cannabis usage is medical. I agree with this view and believe a medical framework overseen by Doctors is the best approach to cannabis for New Jersey.
Senator Scutari has never smoked pot. I believe him, but do we really want a guy who has never smoked a joint to write the law? African-American Marijuana Activist, Trenton Restaurateur, and Congressional Candidate Robert Edward Forchion aka NJ WEEDMAN is New Jersey's most high profile marijuana activist (groups like NORML are just a bunch of lawyers and limousine liberals who just sit around and get high, Ed actually makes change). As a former Hollywood dispensary operator, Forchion knows the business and the product. Did I mention he's also a Marine Corps Veteran? Let's make him New Jersey's Official Cannabis Czar, for politicians to consult with on marijuana topics.
Before running off to Colorado and talking to a bunch of equally clueless politicians and dispensary chain lobbyists, Senator Scutari should stop by NJ Weedman's Joint restaurant and Liberty Bell Temple III Rastafarian church right across from Trenton City Hall and talk to Ed Forchion.
Colorado's pot laws were designed to empower rich white businessmen, while keeping those with even minor criminal records from working in the industry, and requiring high application fees and startup requirements in order to keep people from the disability community, racial minorities, women, and LGBT people from gaining a foothold in the industry. Before thinking of profits, people need to think of patients and compassion.
The point of changing pot laws is to allow people not only to safely possess it for health, but to empower disadvantaged people and communities harmed by the racist War on Drugs to produce their own medicine, free of corporate control and profiteering. Last year, Ohio voters rejected a corporate attempt to hijack the movement with a law written by businessmen intent on creating a monopoly in their state. New Jersey should take notice.