Written for The Argo by Moujnir Lewis
On March 23 Stockton’s American Democracy Project/Political Engagement Project hosted Dr. John Hudak, who presented a lecture on cannabis legalization in New Jersey and the lessons New Jersey can learn from other states that have legalized adult-use marijuana.
As Deputy Director of the Center for Effective Public Management and a senior fellow in Governance Studies, Hudak is highly respected as an expert in the field of cannabis.
Hudak expected that many cannabis advocates in New Jersey “popped open champagne” when the ballot initiative and legislature bringing the state into compliance with said initiative passed. Though it is a step forward, he does not want cannabis advocates to get complacent.
“In reality, this is the first step down a very long road of implementation,” Hudak said. “Cannabis advocates are well served—and whether those are advocates working for some of the best cannabis advocacy organizations in the country like Norml, Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, etc., or just everyday residents of the state of New Jersey who are supportive of this policy—they need to stay engaged.”
Hudak added, “Because if they don’t stay engaged, other people are going to make the decisions that are going to be critical for what this system looks like, what the market looks like, who is able to enter the market, who is able to succeed in the market. And all of those administrative and regulatory decisions help pick the winners and losers; help decide who bears the brunt of regulatory burdens, what taxation will look like, what the criminal justice system will look like, and how tax revenue is brought back into the state and how it is used and where it is targeted.”
As NJ works to establish a functional cannabis market, issues ranging from the black market to supply and funding to federal challenges—such as business loans and interstate commerce—need to be considered.
Balancing those who wish to have a free market with funding for minorities—especially minorities who have been directly impacted by the war on drugs—is another issue that must be addressed.
“You also have people who are looking at this system, particularly communities of color, who are saying, ‘listen. The war on drugs was waged against our community. We need opportunities within this new industry because the illegality of it fell most heavily to us,’” Hudak said.
The future success or failure of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey rides on all these factors. Hudak notes that it is important to focus on reforming any issues that arise instead of demolishing the system altogether.
The success of cannabis policy comes from “adjusting policy with a scalpel rather than a hatchet,” Hudak said.
If you are interested in learning more about the ADP/PEP or Dr. Hudak, please check out Stockton’s ADP/PEP Website, Dr Hudak’s book Marijuana: A Short History and/or his recent analysis of cannabis policies.