420 Solutions to Gov. Chris Christie’s Budget Mess

(Cherry Hill, NJ) — There’s a bipartisan bill in Trenton to legalize, tax and regulate Marijuana sales in NJ.  Let’s pass it already. 

“State and federal governments in the United States face massive looming fiscal deficits. One policy change that can reduce deficits is ending the drug war. Legalization means reduced expenditure on enforcement and an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales.”

-Cato Institue

Surely you’ve heard about Chris Christie’s massive $807,000,000 budget shortfall.  It’s a number so staggering,  “New Jersey’s debt was downgraded by Fitch Ratings, the Wall Street credit-rating agency, in the latest in a series of fiscal blows for the Garden State.

So much for whatever solid financial stewardship our embattled Governor promised when he first ran back in 2009.

While Gov. Christie aggressively seeks out his latest (budget) scapegoat, there’s a simple fix that would eliminate much of this year’s shortfall: to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana sales to adults in New Jersey who choose to smoke.  Before you assume this is “bong hit mathematics” consider these figures:

  • New Jersey’s budget shortfall is $807,000,000.
  • We spend upwards of $127,000,000 to police/prosecute/jail pot smokers in New Jersey every year.
  • Colorado (where cannabis is legal) should reap $98,000,000 this year in sales- and excise taxes on cannabis sales.
  • Add those two numbers and the total ($225,000,000) equals 28% of Chris Christie’s colossal budget shortfall.  

How easy was that?  And since NJ is much more heavily populated than Colorado, these projections are modest compared to what we might generate here in the densely packed Garden State.

Sooner or later?

I’m of two minds how quickly to eliminate marijuana prohibition.

The taxpayer side of me is eager to legalize cannabis ASAP.  Let’s stop wasting money prosecuting the failed War on Drugs!  Surely the money’s better spent on stuff like roads or schools. Or lower tax bills.

Meanwhile, my inner liberal says let’s drag this fight out as long as possible.  And why not?  Democratic politicians tend to favor reforming marijuana laws.  Some Republicans in Trenton do too, but most don’t.  Not yet anyway.  Since a vast majority of Americans favor liberalizing marijuana laws, it’s smart politics for Dems to bludgeon the GOP with drug reform until our laws are more sensible and reflect the will of “We the People.”  American voters of all persuasions seem increasingly willing to “Just Say No” to politicians who defend the failed status quo War on Drugs.

And that’s a good thing.

Budget Scapegoating

There’s blame to go around, but five years into his administration, Chris Christie is mostly responsible for our current budget shortfall.  Mostly on account of fuzzy math and/or bad choices.  Like the time his online gambling revenue projections missed the mark by $146,000,000.

But the Governor is unwilling to even consider marijuana reform to help fix the budget mess brought on by the partisan shell game he’s been playing. He said so himself:

“See if you want to live in Colorado, where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that.”

If you’ve even been to Colorado you know that dissing their “quality of life” is silly.  As for not even considering novel approaches to fix the problems he himself made?  That’s silly too.
And it’s a bum deal for the taxpayers of New Jersey.

Jay Lassiter is a New Jersey civil liberties activist who wants to get the government out of your bong. And your womb. And your love life. And your medicine cabinet.   He’s on Twitter @Jay_Lass


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