smoking marijuana

The Star-Ledger says the $125 million spent by the state arresting 22,000 people in 2010 for marijuana offenses “a trail of wasted money and unnecessary criminal record”

This is a perfect example of how even long-shot bills can effectively help advance an issue. The editorial board at the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, used the introduction of State Sen. Nicholas Scutari’s (D) marijuana legalization bill as a hook for attacking marijuana prohibition.

The board pointed out the huge cost of criminalization and called legalization an inevitable outcome that state lawmakers should start seriously debating. From the Star-Ledger:

Even if its fate is preordained, lawmakers should still reward Scutari’s bill with enthusiastic debate. That way, when New Jersey’s political winds shift in marijuana’s favor — as they inevitably will — we’ll be ready to do it right. [...]

New Jersey still punishes possession with up to six months in jail and $1,000 fines; in 2010, we spent $125 million arresting 22,000 people. For what? A trail of wasted money and unnecessary criminal records, unfairly aimed at young men of color. This might be the most significant ground shared by Christie and the legalization lobby: that treatment works better than enforcement. But don’t expect Christie to budge. Medical marijuana was legal when Christie took office, and he still tries to block it.

No doubt this editorial from such an important institution in the state will make other politicians more comfortable talking about legalization, helping a snowball effect. Every time a politician or major organization comes out against marijuana prohibition it makes it easier (and  less politically risky) for the next politician to follow suit. That in turn makes it even easier for those in the subsequent round. This an effect that grows exponentially, not linearly.

Photo of Anthony Michael Hall from The Breakfast Club