TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The push to legalize marijuana is heating up in New Jersey.
Supporters say legalization could solve budget problems and make the state millions, but critics aren’t buying it.READ MORE: Driver Charged With DWI, Manslaughter In Crash That Killed Mother, Daughter On Rockaway Boulevard In Queens
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, ‘going green’ could have more than one meaning in the Garden State. New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform say making pot legal in the state would have a significant economic impact.
“If New Jersey legalized, taxed, and regulated marijuana for adults the state could take in $300-million in tax revenue alone,” Ari Rosmarin, Public Policy Director, ACLU NJ, said.
Rosmarin said New Jersey residents already spend almost $870-million a year on marijuana through the illegal market.
“New Jersey is in the hole with a $1-billion budget deficit. It won’t solve all of our problems, but instead of slashing programs or raising taxes on people this is a great way to build new revenue,” Rosmarin said.
Rosmarin said it also creates economic opportunities.
“New Jersey makes more than 24,000 marijuana possession arrests a year. This could ruin people’s lives,” he said.
Diane Litterer, the CEO of the New Jersey Prevention Network said although states like Colorado and Washington state have seen a reward of tax dollars, vehicle accidents are a concern.READ MORE: Citizen App Seeks 'Field Team Members' To Live Stream Breaking News Stories
“Car crashes are up,” Diane Litterer said.
Pro-legalization groups say instead of sending buyers to the corner, marijuana can be regulated which would put dealers out of business. Others say it may not work out like that.
“You can go to Colorado and the black market has not gone away. There’s always going to be people who want stronger strains and do not want to pay the tax,” Litterer said.
Litterer also believes that marijuana could be a gateway drug.
“When you go down the line and talk to people who have used heroin, many of them started with marijuana,” she said.
Legalization would be for individuals 21 and older, but Litterer said kids will look for the drug in an illegal way.
“We don’t want adults to go to jail for simple possession, there are other ways to talk about this issue in the criminal justice reform area, not creating another big tobacco that really markets to our kids,” she said.
The proposal is to tax the drug at 25 percent. Litterer said for every dollar spent on drugs and alcohol it results in $10 more in health and societal costs.MORE NEWS: NYC DOT Asks New Yorkers To Weigh In On Future Citi Bike Station Locations In Brooklyn, Queens
Supporters of legal marijuana are working with some New Jersey lawmakers to draft a bill.