- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

If one lawmaker has his way, New Jersey will join Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana.

But it’s not likely to happen as long as Gov. Chris Christie is in office.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, announced Friday that he intends to introduce a bill in the next month to legalize, regulate and tax pot.

“It will provide us with much needed tax revenue,” Scutari said.

He also said the his plan would allow police to focus on enforcing other crimes, including those linked to more addictive drugs rather than busting users and dealers of marijuana, which he called the “cash cow of the illegal drug trade.”

Even if Scutari can navigate the bill through both Democrat-controlled chambers of the state Legislature, he faces a powerful opponent in Christie.

Under the Republican governor, the state has launched a medical marijuana program that was approved by his predecessor, Jon Corzine. But Christie has been skeptical of making marijuana more widely available.

When he signed a law last year to ease access for young patients with serious medical conditions, he made it clear that he did not want to liberalize the law any further. By some measures, the state’s law is the most restrictive of any in the 20 states that allow marijuana for patients.

He has often said he does not want the program to turn into one like Colorado’s, where medical marijuana rules were less restrictive.

Voters in Colorado and Washington have made recreational cannabis legal in their states starting this year.

Scutari said that despite the opposition, he wants to start the discussion of legal pot in New Jersey.


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