Connors, Rumpf and Gove Oppose Recreational Pot

Feb 27, 2019

The representatives of New Jersey’s 9th Legislative District, state Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, are just saying no to drugs – or at least to legalized recreational marijuana.

It appears that Gov. Phil Murphy’s push to legalize recreational pot use in the state is finally approaching its resolution. Last week he told reporters he was optimistic the marijuana issue would soon be resolved after a meeting between the governor and leading Democratic lawmakers had ended in a deal in principle on a bill legalizing, regulating and taxing recreational weed. Although he and folks such as state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin wouldn’t suggest a date the bill would reach the floors of the New Jersey State House chambers, it appeared such votes were likely to take place sooner than later.

It is safe to say Connors, Rumpf and Gove, who represent all of Southern Ocean County in Trenton, will be no votes. Last Wednesday the 9th District team announced it was unified in its opposition.

The delegation based its opposition to a great degree on Rumpf’s recommendation. He serves on the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee, which had held hearings across the state considering the legislation. After listening to advocates on both sides of the issue, Rumpf, and thus the entire delegation, decided public safety concerns outweigh any tax benefits the state could enjoy if pot became legalized. It was a decision, the delegation said in a formal statement, that was backed by the majority of their constituents over the years.

“Without question, the dangers legalizing marijuana would pose to New Jersey residents are too severe to dismiss for the sake of revenue generated to fill Trenton’s coffers,” read the statement. “First and foremost, we are concerned about the dangers of drugged driving and the expanded potential for deaths and serious injuries caused by impaired drivers.”

The delegation noted that there is no “comparable equivalent to a breathalyzer test” for pot. “This will only complicate the efforts and exhaust the resources of the local police, country sheriff officers and State troopers, who already work tirelessly to keep our roadways safe.”

The delegation worried, too, that there was an absence of “any safeguards in the legislation to steer marijuana away from our youths and schools, which is also extremely alarming.”

Connors, Rumpf and Gove linked marijuana to opioids.

“To us and many of our constituents, it’s unfathomable and completely irresponsible that our state would even consider legalizing marijuana while tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are being appropriated to fight an opioid epidemic with an increasing death toll.”

The delegation also wondered why New Jersey is considering legalizing recreational pot via legislation instead of a voter referendum.

“Clearly, those who support legalization didn’t want to leave anything to chance, including the strength of public opposition.”

Ten states plus the District of Columbia have approved legalized recreational marijuana for adults age 21 and older (33 states, including New Jersey, allow some form of medicinal use). But only Vermont took the step of forgoing a public referendum and legalized recreational pot via the legislation route.

It is all a matter of taxes, said Connors, Rumpf and Gove.

“In the end, this all simply comes down to money,” the delegation’s statement says. “Power brokers driving the agenda for our cash-starved state want more taxation and revenue to keep up with the reckless pace of excessive and politicized government spending, regardless of the consequences for our communities.”

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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