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The last time I wrote about marijuana, I was inundated with dozens of emails and posts providing counter-positions to mine, or actually that of my prevention agency, Wellspring Center for Prevention.
So allow me to take a slightly different tact. Mostly because the accepted understanding in our state is that legalized marijuana will become the law of the land later this year or early next.
It’s not that we’ve given up our efforts to try and stop or stall this march to inevitability. It’s our desire to ensure that that citizens are provided with the opportunity to ban the sale and distribution of legalized marijuana within their municipal borders. That the implementation of medical marijuana in additional locations takes priority over the implementation of shops that sale marijuana in the strip mall across from your kids’ school. And most importantly, that today’s (and tomorrow’s) youth are protected from state action that is likely to affect their generation, and way beyond.
According to the latest news, it is likely that New Jersey soon will allow anyone 21 and older to buy and use marijuana. In response, a number of Jersey towns are responding with the message: not here! That is because local governments can decide on their own whether and where to allow the sale of marijuana within their communities.
We already know that in other states where the sale of marijuana has been legalized, many local governments have disallowed retail sales of the drug.
In New Jersey, over 30 communities have passed or are considering passing ordinances that would prohibit marijuana retail and production within city limits, in some cases with exceptions for medical use.
Many New Jerseans are not fully behind the idea of passing a legalized marijuana law. A recent Quinnipiac University poll of 908 New Jersey voters said 62 percent support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.. But when asked if they would support marijuana sales in their own community, only 50 percent of survey respondents said yes.
Granted, 30 municipalities is a small percentage of the 565 municipalities in our State. But it has a direct bearing on efforts to enact state legislation. If the number of communities prohibiting the sale of marijuana continues to grow, the effort to legalize and implement becomes more complex.
It is, however, less likely municipalities will oppose the opening of medical marijuana facilities within their borders. Recently, a sixth dispensary opened in Secaucus and several satellite Alternative Treatment Center locations are also in the works.
Did you know that although research is limited, studies have shown the marijuana has benefited patients with chronic pain, cancer, HIV, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, IBD and Rheumatoid Arthritis, among many other conditions? Which may explain why the State is adding opioid use disorder—in concert with Medication Assisted Treatment—to the list of conditions that would allow patients to participate in a medical marijuana program.
So why don’t we just focus on opening more medical marijuana centers and back-off the drive to legalize marijuana?
Allow me to finish with one last, vital point.
Marijuana use has skyrocketed as the perception of harm has plummeted. There are now over 8,000 new marijuana users each day in the U.S., and 22% of 18 to 25-year-olds are currently using the drug - the highest number for all three stats in recent memory. Worse, annual use by ages 16 and up has significantly risen since last year.
Our primary job at Wellspring is to prevent youth from trying and using substances. With a new law legalizing marijuana coming on the books in the near future, our job, and that of other agencies like ours throughout the state, will become harder.
We need you to talk to your local officials and ask them to consider passing a local ordinance banning the sale and distribution of legalized marijuana. Do it for the kids who don’t have a voice or cannot vote yet.