Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use including Alaska, Oregon Colorado and Washington and the District of Columbia recently legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, has taken a strong stance and is vehemently opposed to legalizing marijuana, claiming that taxing revenue from it would amount to “blood money.”
“As long as I’m governor of New Jersey, there won’t be legalized marijuana in this state,” said Christie at the opening of an outpatient drug abuse treatment facility. “This should not be permitted in our society, it sends the wrong message. Every bit of objective data tells us that it’s a gateway drug to other drugs.”
He also questions whether states really make significant tax revenue from legalized marijuana as the cash model that many pot businesses use results in a large percentage of the taxes never reaching the state. This viewpoint appears to hold some validity. In Colorado, there’s about a 30% tax on marijuana, so many people continue to buy pot on the black market with an estimated 40% of pot bought in the state being illegal. It was estimated that Colorado would make up to $100 million in tax revenue in the first year of legalization, but the number generated was closer to only $44 million.
The debates around the legalization will continue and it’s important that we look to the states that have already passed laws to see what’s really happening on the ground, versus what was expected.