Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced his support for bills to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program and to legalize recreational adult use during his “Speak to the Speaker” radio segment on WCTC 1450 AM on Aug. 3.
“For folks who don’t want to legalize it, I understand their view. But I would ask, are we satisfied with the status quo,” Coughlin said on his regular call-in program.
“Use of marijuana is still a constant. Three out of five drug arrests are for marijuana. African-Americans are three times more likely to get arrested for marijuana,” Coughlin said. “We’re trying to address those things and I think, if you got the right bill, we’ll go ahead and try to pass it.”
Coughling said he changed his attitude toward cannabis after traveling to Colorado, which authorized adult-use cannabis in 2014.
“I recognized that this is a real industry,” Coughlin said. “It’s not just a couple of guys growing pot in the backyard and selling it out the front door. That’s not at all what it is.”
Coughlin took issue with the letter by State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal asking municipal prosecutors to adjourn all marijuana-related prosecutions until Sept. 4 – in essence decriminalizing marijuana possession.
“Personally, I don’t think decriminalizing it is a scheme that works. It doesn’t change the fact that it would be illegal to sell it, but legal to possess it — which is kind of an odd conundrum,” Coughlin said in the radio interview. “It allows the bad actors to have a client base that doesn’t have any risk.”
Coughlin said work on medical marijuana expansion and legalization will likely continue through the fall.