New Jersey Republicans are united in their opposition to marijuana reform. According to a NJ.com article, (“Here’s how your N.J. lawmaker is leaning on legalizing weed,”) of the 15 Senate Republicans, 14 of them plan to vote “No” on marijuana legalization, with one Undecided. In the Assembly, there is only one Republican who is willing to vote Yes. Why are the Republicans so opposed to marijuana reform?
The results of marijuana reform are consistent with Republican ideals of fiscal responsibility, small government, and rights of the individual. But Republicans here are willing to maintain a vast army of criminal justice employees to manage the mass incarceration and insults to civil rights that are brought about by marijuana prohibition.
It is ironic that Republican Assemblyman Harold “Hal” Wirths recently blamed Democrats for delaying expansion of the medical marijuana program by tying it to S2703, the bill to legalize marijuana for adults (“The Democrats’ political machine is failing medical marijuana patients, a Republican legislator says” ). When the “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” was in the legislature from 2005 to 2010, it was difficult to find any Republicans who supported it. Despite polling that showed over 80% of voters supported medical marijuana in the state, it took almost four full years before a single Republican would vote to support it. Bill Baroni’s vote in the Senate Health Committee on December 15, 2008 was a “profile in courage” moment as he considered all the evidence and followed his conscience, defying party leadership, by voting “Yes.” The bill passed into law in 2010, but Republican governor Chris Christie came into office and, for eight years, put delays and roadblocks in the implementation of the medical marijuana law.