Go to Pot

Don’t Let NJ Go to Pot is the latest group leading the fight against cannabis legalization in the battle to stop the march of progress.

Gregg Edwards, who worked for Chris Christie, who hates cannabis, is leading it. Edwards made his career as a Trenton Insider working for Republicans in the legislature, culminating in an appointment as a Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education from Christie.

Go to Pot is replacing NJ RAMP as the leading prohibitionist group in New Jersey. NJ RAMP was funded by Patrick Kennedy and Kevin Sabet’s SAM. Kennedy was previously a drunkard and a pill popper who disgraced himself before resigning from Congress. His wife is running against Jeff Van Drew, as is Libertarian candidate Jesse Ehrnstrom.

According to Edwards, NJ RAMP is now disbanded, and his group is not associated with SAM formally. They were founded in July as a 501(c)4.

Arguing Over Money

Edwards said the referendum wouldn’t bring in the money advocates say it will. He said the fiscal note written by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS) anticipated a cannabis tax to only raise $126 million.

He confidently said it was “like dropping a feather in the Atlantic Ocean. It will have no impact. It’s way off base.”

Regarding the referendum, they said, “The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) cannot quantify the fiscal impact of the constitutional amendment because parameters of implementation will have to be determined in subsequent statutory enactments.”

The think tank NJ. Policy Perspective did a study and found $300 million would be brought into the state. They assume a taxation rate going from five to twenty-five percent over three years at cannabis going for $350 an ounce.

California has sought to impose high prices and high tax rates on cannabis, leading to its underground market dominating the legal market, causing revenue projections to fall far short of reality.

Edwards also thought the amount spent on the effects would offset the benefit. That has not been the case elsewhere.

Many of the concerns of Go to Pot concerns regarding marketing to children and dosing would be solved by a just implementation bill that addressed the harm caused by the War on Drugs. The problem is that the New Jersey State Senate has yet to produce such a bill. And given their previous actions, without cannabis winning a mandate as its polling suggest, it is not likely to achieve that.

Many prohibitionists’ arguments are either fear-mongering or uncertainty regarding implementation, which would be solved by an implementation bill with strong social justice provisions. The fact that they question legalization and fight diminishes the forces fighting for a just implementation.

Edwards said most are concerned about the increased availability to teenagers and young adults. Plus, the referendum doesn’t limit THC content nor restrict types of products.

That is why advocates prefer the term “adult-use” to “recreational,” along with the failure of Western medicine to treat chronic conditions, which has led many to successfully self-medicate.

Edwards said he examined Colorado and Washington and found increased use by teens. He said one has to use “common sense” to see this. Common sense in 1200 AD made people think the Sun revolved around a flat- Earth when the opposite is true.

Non-partisan scientists at three colleges did a study last year and said teen use has decreased. If cannabis is sold at an affordable price to seniors who seem “uncool,” it undercuts the black market and decreases the rebellious appeal of consuming cannabis.

“Go to Pot” is a phrase that has fallen out of popular usage and signifies things going awry.

The Group Built to Not let NJ Go to Pot

The Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ), the NJ. state chapter of the American Medical Association (AMA) is also against it. That makes sense since some doctors in rehabs could lose their jobs if there are not enough patients. Nationally the AMA hates legalization.

Police groups disliked by social justice advocates and NJ Republican County Chairs have come out against as well and support Go to Pot. The Chair of the Hudson County Republicans led that effort. Given the nature of Hudson County, I cannot imagine a more worthless position.

NJ CAN 2020 seems to have a bigger coalition.

Nonetheless, he plans to contact Boards of Education, PTAs, and Chambers of Commerce to spread his message. If you’re a respectable parent patient or small business owner, speak up!

Edwards said he had met people against the principle of inserting cannabis into the New Jersey Constitution as if it were venerated like the US Constitution, which it is not. No one gives out free copies of the New Jersey Constitution.

Because they were founded to fight the referendum, Go to Pot has no opinion on medical marijuana nor its effectiveness.

Uphill Battle

While cannabis legalization has consistently polled well in polls released this year, Edwards said the fact that it failed in the legislature twice last says it’s not as popular.

Old people in positions of power for a long time often do not reflect popular attitudes.

Despite being consistently down in multiple polls, Edwards said the biggest challenge isn’t the polls. Rather it is the obstacles created by COVID, which has hampered his efforts. Edwards was planning to speak to many groups about the issues. It has also hurt fundraising. Virtual events are not the same.

The Nature of a Ballot Measure

Edwards said ballot measures usually pass in New Jersey. They are usually not controversial matters. Many are bond initiatives to fund infrastructure.

In 2013 when Christie won re-election in a landslide, a measure to increase the minimum wage slightly passed as well by a comfortable margin.

Edwards said the last major referendum in New Jersey was to expand casino gambling in 2016 beyond Atlantic City. That garnered a great deal of publicity and money and failed. He said legalization will not get the same visibility, even if it’s more important.

Another ballot referendum that failed in the early 2000s, he said, would have set up stem cell research facilities. Questions by pro-lifers and those who thought the arrangement shady killed it, he said. Given New Jersey’s large pharmaceutical industry, this was surprising.

It’s also strange because most will cast mail-in ballots for the election. (Turn the page! The cannabis question is on the back!)

“No one really knows when people will focus on ballots. I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody knows,” he said.