New Jersey has apparently resolved its tax issues and other infrastructure problems and is poised to legalize recreational marijuana.
I’m somewhat surprised that it took this long. I’m even more surprised that at least 40 New Jersey towns have already passed laws that ban legal pot shops. Is this indicative of a relatively strong opposition to legalization before the big vote in the Legislature next week?
On my radio show, I’ve said that the reality of legal pot in New Jersey has forced people to consider some of the practical issues. In fact, I talked about somewhat tongue-in-cheek about an NJ.com article that talked about obesity rates in states that legalized marijuana. According to the article, researchers cited a new study from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University that found that sales of potato chips, cookies, and ice cream all increased in the months after states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington legalized marijuana. The numbers are substantial. Chip sales increased 5.3 percent, cookie sales increased 4.1 percent, and ice cream consumption increased 3.1 percent. They note that these increased purchases were not temporary. The article concludes that a state not known for fitness might be on the cusp of a munchie-fueled obesity upsurge.
I offer this downside only to make the point that even though I acknowledge the personal liberty of adults wh choose to use a substance for pleasure, there are no free lunches. However, because of my discussion of this, I found a South Jersey town that wants to be the pot capital of New Jersey.
I spoke with Michael DiCroce, the Republican mayor of Shamong Township, N.J., and a politician who sees pot growing and selling as the “gateway" to his town’s future. Shamong is in the Pine Barrens. The name comes from Native American language and means “Place of the Big Horn.”
It may have to be renamed “Place of the Big Bong."
The mayor and I discussed his editorial in the Shamong Sun and Pine Barrens Tribune. The mayor, channeling John Lennon, wrote:
“You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one…
“Imagine: What if we could create 100 new jobs in Shamong, drastically cut property taxes, increase home values, help fund our schools and build a new community center complete with Olympic-size pool?”
In my interview, he even told me that it might be possible for Shamong residents to pay zero property taxes -- in a state notorious for obscene property taxes.
He talked a lot to me about the benefits to farmers in his area. In the editorial, he wrote, ”A good farmer might find a crop where they can make a $20,000 profit on an acre of land. There are no crops or products, where a one acre plot of farm land can bring in $1.6 million in one year — almost all of it profit. No fruit, vegetable, corn, or tomato can provide such a massive profit, except for one — marijuana.
The mayor also dismissed the notion that if his town is immersed in pot, it will be difficult to dissuade teens from greater pot usage. I think the mayor and the elected officials in New Jersey might want to take a look at former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson’s book Tell Your Children and his reporting on the link between extensive marijuana use and mental illness. I interviewed the author and found him not to be an anti- drug warrior, but a meticulous reporter concerned about the future of his kids.
I predict that the vote on legalization next week will be close and that the world won’t end in New Jersey.
But expect more impaired driving, teenage pot use, and disappointments when big legal sales fail to materialize because of a potential tax of $42 an ounce, and because of a certain perception of seediness attached to pot shops.
As far as the mayor is concerned, Shamong may prosper a bit and it fulfill his dream of becoming the pot-growing capital of New Jersey.
However, be ready for its new nickname: “Shabong.”