This year sucked. Sure, we were decimated with a pandemic, faced with systemic racial reckoning, and run, for a few more days at least, by a dangerous idiot, but what 2020 really did was take my eye off the prize in this space. And that prize is New Jersey’s vote to legalize marijuana, something I have written about and actively campaigned for with much fervor here for years. It is the reason I supported Phil Murphy for governor. Finally, after a couple of painful years of stonewalling by morally-suspect Republicans and a regretful contingent of feckless out-of-touch Democrats in our state government, our call here for a vote came to fruition. And boy, did that work out. Weed is legal in New Jersey.
I wish to write this again.
Weed is legal in New Jersey.
The day before I put down these words, the state Assembly voted 49-24 with six abstentions to pass bill S21, and the Senate later followed, passing it 23-17.
You know why?
Because we say so.
It was the will of the people, who voted two-to-on on November 3 to amend the state constitution and make weed legal.
This is how democracy works.
Call up Donald Trump and let him know. He needs some lessons. On second thought, fuck that moron, he’s going to Florida in a few days. He’s their problem now.
Hmmmm, 2021, welcome.
“I feel that nothing will have a greater impact that I’ve done in my career in the Legislature on all New Jerseyans,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the bill’s sponsor, blustered with glee moments before the vote. You could almost detect a tear of joy there, but it was likely the pain of being a N.J. lawmaker. No one should have to endure that without some herb. Hell, this was a tough one, as Scutari, one of my heroes, said, “It’s been a long journey.”
This, dear reader, is the sweet sound of freedom in a year that had a shit-ton of restrictions, rules, curfews, and limits. Soon Governor Murphy will sign this baby into law and his campaign promise, the only reason I backed him in these pages, will be made real.
Weed is legal in New Jersey.
Forgive me, I cannot help but to keep typing this. It’s almost involuntary. I could see it on the horizon, I could argue it, and dream it, and even conjure it as some kind of positive affirmation on what is good and true in our statehood, but now it is happening. And, by the way, I am not even a pothead. I could take it or leave it. It mostly makes me hungry and sit in front of the TV until all hours watching old Elvis Costello and the Attractions boot videos. I prefer gin.
Nevertheless, weed is legal here.
The details will have to be worked out. This is a major business model and one that has had uneven results in other states. There are, by the way, sixteen of us now. Whereas in Colorado things went smoothly, other states have had issues. But where New Jersey is concerned, this could not have happened at a better time. The economy has tanked, and some jobs are not coming back. The very concept of the office is being re-examined by accountants from Bangor to the Baja Peninsula. Empty buildings. Quieter streets. This is part of the “new normal” and so the influx of tax from commuting, rentals, to simple sales tax has diminished to the point of affecting schools, police, fireman, and the pressing matter of infrastructure.
As reported on NJ.com: “The bill currently directs seventy-percent of the state sales tax revenue from marijuana purchases and an excise tax on marijuana growers to certain minority communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war.”
Moreover, soon, when the vaccine takes effect (yay, vaccine!), people will be coming out of their holes and much like the 1920s after the last massive pandemic rocked the nation and WWI drove a spike through the heart of our collective faith, they will be ready to party! The Roaring Twenties Redux, without all the Prohibition. Nothing stopped those maniacs, and we shall follow in their Flapper/Charleston/Gatsby wake. So, we need to regulate their product, push the pushers and dealers to the side and assist in making things easier for our overloaded cops. This will be a boon to all of those things.
This also means we can clear our prisons of low-level drug offenders. Saves on feeding, clothing and accommodating them. When I was in the Manhattan tombs two October’s ago for a few evenings on a bullshit charge, I would conservatively estimate that over ninety-percent of the poor bastards in there were on minor drug busts. And ninety-nine percent were people of color. But it will soon be 2021, and this should not be a thing, and it is no longer a thing, and for that I celebrate The Vote and the coming of 2021.
“This bill to legalize cannabis is a strong commitment to social justice,” Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, one of the bills’ sponsors, told NJ.com, “This bill establishes measures to make the cannabis business diverse and equitable.”
As predicted, the people want this, and they will now get it. And like most experiments in freedom, this may be rocky and maybe it won’t be the cash windfall I and the governor believe it will be, but it is way overdue. It was always – thank you, Randolph Hearst – an arbitrary and capricious law, making a plant illegal, and we here in New Jersey, at least, have rectified it. And thus, it will not be long before New York follows suit. They must, or risk losing much revenue, because until then the tolls and local economic boon will be coming this way.
Oh, and the cool thing about having a Democrat in the White House again is the federal government won’t spend tax dollars, energy and manpower trying to enforce antiquated federal law and let the states experiment, let the free market and the people decide the outcome of our destiny.
To write that in a year that has seen us isolated and sacrificed and arguing stupidly over what we can wear and not wear and ignore the greater health and consciousness of our friends, family and neighbors, this news, this will of the people comes at the right time.