NJ: Massive Marijuana-Reform Bill Could Drive You To Drink

Photo Credit: Keith A. Muccilli

As a writer, I long ago noted that the use of marijuana is not conducive to the construction of comprehensible prose.

If you doubt that, I invite you to read the liner notes from rock albums that came out in the 1960s. Here’s an unedited excerpt from the cover of a Bob Dylan album:

“erotic hitchhiker wearing japanese blanket gets my attention by asking didn’t he see me at this hootenanny down in puerto Vallarta, mexico / i say no you must be mistaken. i happen to be one of the Supremes.”

Nonsensical as that sounds, it’s positively pellucid compared to the language in that marijuana “legalization” bill that was introduced last week in the state Senate.

I put “legalization” in quotes because one of the goals of the legislation is to create a Division of Marijuana Enforcement.

Call me a free-market fanatic, but if the goal is to revoke the laws against marijuana, then why do you need a new bureaucracy to enforce those laws you’ve just revoked?

This proposed bureaucracy is so complex that its mere description requires 114 pages of prose so dense it would make Dylan’s writings seem transparent by comparison.

I got interested in the bill when I received a press release from a coalition called NJ United for Marijuana Reform.

The coalition’s members were of the opinion that the bill’s sponsors have good intentions but come up short on a number of issues.

One objection: “We need home-grow options, omitted in the bill.”

The release gave the phone number of Elizabeth Ruebman, so I gave her a call to learn more about the home-growing question.

“We’re not advocating that anyone and their mother sell weed out of their homes,” Ruebman told me. “We believe folks should be permitted to grow it at home in a limited way.”

Fair enough. But what does the bill say about that?

Ruebman and I went to our computers to search for an answer. The first such mention I came across was a passage stating that “a person may possess, use, purchase, or transport” various amounts of marijuana including “up to 6 immature marijuana plants.”

Ruebman then asked the obvious question: What happens when the immature plants become mature?”

We plunged back into the prose for an answer. We soon encountered this syllogism:

“‘Mature marijuana plant’ means a marijuana plant that is not an immature marijuana plant.”

Hard to argue with that.

But suppose the owner of the immature marijuana plants waters them and they turn into mature marijuana plants. Is the owner then subject to arrest?

I spent the afternoon calling around to see if anyone could explain that. Finally I got the bill’s prime sponsor, state Sen. Nick Scutari. I read the passage about the immature plants to him as well as another passage seeming to legalize “homegrown marijuana that is given or received when nothing is given or received in return.”

Scutari said that language should not have been in the bill and those advocating it won’t be getting their way.

“They want homegrown, but they’re not gonna get homegrown, from me or anybody else,” Scutari said.

So that was a succinct statement, much more succinct than that massive bill

It’s filled with bureaucratic jargon like a command that the new Division must “Adopt a tiered system under which the permitted size of a marijuana growers’ mature marijuana plant grow canopy increases at the time of licensure renewal.”

I don’t know what that could possibly mean. But I do know what “legalization” means. If I may state it as a syllogism of my own: “Legalized marijuana means marijuana that is not illegal.”

There actually is a bill in the hopper that would legalize marijuana. It comes not from a liberal Democrat but from a conservative Republican.

Assemblyman Mike Carroll of Morris County is sponsoring a bill that makes marijuana legal through the simple expedient of “removing all criminal liability associated with marijuana from the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.”

Trenton insiders say that bill, which is just a few pages long, has no chance of being enacted into law. I’m sure they’re correct. It simply makes too much sense to legalize something by the simple act of declaring that it is no longer illegal.

It’s much more fun for all concerned to create a massive new bureaucracy that will produce massive profits for a few insiders as well as big tax revenues for the state.

Just when will that complicated measure make it past the Democrat-controlled Legislature to the desk of the new Democratic governor, let me again quote Bob Dylan:

“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

As for the pot smokers, they’ll have to wait.