By Annalisa Leite, Class of 2019
“A stronger and fairer New Jersey embraces comprehensive criminal justice reform — including a process to legalize marijuana,” said Governor Philip Murphy during his Inauguration speech on January 16, 2018.
Since Murphy became governor, New Jersey has been waiting for legalization to become a reality. On November 26th, New Jersey lawmakers took one more step to legalization when they voted on the bill they proposed to give to Murphy, which would legalize marijuana in New Jersey. However, not everyone in the state is looking forward to this coming change.
In New Jersey, there are 18 regional coalitions that focus on substance abuse prevention, as well as the two biggest non-profit prevention organizations in the state, the New Jersey Prevention Network and Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.
Alysa Fornarotto-Regenye is part of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals (ASAP-NJ) and runs the “Youth Rite of Passage – Impact of Marijuana Legalization” Coalition.
“Marijuana is a gateway drug and should not be legalized for recreational use,” said Fornarotto-Regenye, “when politicians start talking about legalization, kids think it’s no big deal and that the drug isn’t harmful, but it is.”
Fornatto-Regenye has been following a survey that was done in Colorado, which was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. “When recreational marijuana is legalized, you see more DUI’s, more crime in schools, and a drop in students GPAs and attendance,” said Fornarotto-Regenye, “parents leave the marijuana out around the house when it’s legal, so we see more trips to the vet and the ER because of THC overdoses.”
When NJ lawmakers headed to Trenton to vote on the proposed bill of marijuana legalization, Fornarotto-Regenye attended the vote to speak but wasn’t given any time.
“They let the pro-marijuana guest speak for 10 minutes and the anti-marijuana guest speak for 2,” Fornarotto-Regenye said, “A lot of people on the pro side are paid to be there, I took a personal day, I was there because I believe strongly in this.” Fornarotto-Regenye was able to send her Testimony electronically.
Those who work in the field of Prevention are not the only people who are against the legalization of recreational marijuana. Alexis Dulko, a junior at Saint Peter’s University is also against legalization. “To be honest, I think it is a gateway drug. As someone that wants to go into law enforcement/justice system, I think legalizing it would make the job a lot harder,” said Dulko, “ A majority of the time when marijuana is seized, there are other narcotics seized along with it. If marijuana was legalized, I think it would be a lot more difficult to locate the other narcotics.”
Marijuana is considered a schedule I controlled substance and a gateway drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Marijuana is a bridge to harder drugs,” said Fornarotto-Regenye.
Although legalization is not something that Dulko or Fornatto-Regenye want, they do believe that recreational marijuana will be legalized in NJ very soon.
“We will treat marijuana like alcohol and nicotine, even though it is legal, it is a drug that should not be used,” said Fornatto-Regenye.