New Jersey state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, who represents the legislative district that includes Verona, today condemned Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s plans to legalize marijuana in New Jersey. Pennacchio, a Republican, cited what he called a “drastic” increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities in states that have legalized the drug.
“Governor-elect Murphy sees a $300 million tax revenue windfall,” Pennacchio wrote in a post on the New Jersey Senate Republicans’ website. “I see a mass of heartache and trouble. New Jersey’s roadways are extremely congested and we don’t have a full-proof weed sobriety test. A mad dash to legalization, without taking the time to examine the consequences, is a recipe for disaster.”
In his post, Pennacchio linked to an Asbury Park Press story that marijuana-related traffic deaths jumped by 48% in Colorado after full legalization there in 2014. Factcheck.org confirms that there has been an increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities since Colorado approved marijuana for medical and then general use. But Colorado authorities have noted that, because there is no reliable test for marijuana impairment the way there is for alcohol, saying that someone tested positive for marijuana does “not necessarily prove that marijuana was the cause of the incident.”
Pennacchio said that if New Jersey legalizes marijuana, police departments would need to increase the number of both drug recognition experts on their payroll and toxicology reports to close cases.
“The reality is that legalizing weed won’t solve New Jersey’s affordability crisis, especially when you consider how much money we are going to have to spend just to make sure law enforcement officials have the resources to handle a massive increase in drugged driving,” Sen. Pennacchio wrote. “Governor-elect Murphy will be putting the lives of New Jersey citizens at risk, just so he can call himself an ‘activist governor.’ I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to put the brakes on legalization before it’s too late.”