Morristown, NJ

Morristown's Marijuana Management (say that three times fast)

Morristown Minute
Map of Cannabis legalization by state(ELISABETH GARBER-PAUL & RYAN BORT, Rolling Stone)

Billions of dollars in tax revenue generated by neighboring states from legal marijuana sales as NJ sits back and watches from the sidelines

Of the 4 million-plus votes cast in the 2020 NJ election on the issue of marijuana legalization, 2.74 million New Jersey voters, 67.1 %, voted to legalize marijuana. Within Morris County, that number had a slight drop to just under 65% for legalization.

For other counties, support for legalization was reported as high as 75% (Camden, NJ, 75.3% for legalization). New Jersey has already made plans to institute recreational marijuana sales. Governor Murphy optimistically predicted $80 million in marijuana revenue in a state budget proposal in 2019. That number rose from $60 million as previously predicted in 2018. The upward trend has done nothing but persists as states around NJ and counties around Morristown start to see the positive economic and social impact of legal, recreational marijuana.

More revenue for the state isn't the only upside of marijuana legalization and recreational use. A study called "Monitoring the Future" conducted in 2020 consisting of 1,550 19-22 year-olds reported a decrease in alcohol consumption and binge drinking along with a rise in marijuana use compared to previous years. The drop in alcohol consumption dipped from 62% of 19-22 year-olds to just 56% in one year. While episodes of binge drinking dropped from 32% to 28% of young adults.

This unusual drop in alcohol consumption among 19-22-year-olds correlates to a rise in marijuana availability and use, but can not be seen as causation (we can't say more marijuana alone caused the decrease). But what this does mean is a drop in young-adult related drunk driving accidents. Fatal crashes and drunk driving accidents and arrests were trending upward from 2014-17. When talk of marijuana legalization in NJ first started in 2018, marijuana was readily available for recreational use in 18 states. By this point, medical marijuana in NJ was establishing itself and had a growing customer base. Since marijuana's introduction to NJ, drunk driving incidents, arrests, crashes, and fatalities have been on a downward slope.

We may not be able to say marijuana has caused this decrease in drinking and drinking-related deaths, but marijuana certainly caused a rise in tax revenue. The only real question is, when will Morristown be marijuana-ready?

Where there is politics, there is a delay. This much we all know. But for Morristown, there's more than politics holding back a plentiful relationship with legal, recreational marijuana.

The Morristown Town Council recently made the decision to ban all marijuana sales in the Morristown area until further notice so that the town can make key decisions on where and when marijuana retailers should be allowed to set up shop. The major concern for the council is identifying areas that reside near schools and other centers for youth. The council is currently working to identify areas that will be marked as available for marijuana retailers and areas close to underage persons that will be off-limits to retail marijuana stores.

This may seem like a responsible use of the town's time while Morristown prepares for recreational marijuana sales, but the council's attempt to prohibit sales in certain areas may be unnecessary and dragging out the timeline for when recreational marijuana will be available in NJ. How concerned should we be about the location of marijuana sales within our state? Walk into any recreational marijuana retailer in any of the eighteen states that are up and running and you will quickly notice the intense level of security and background checks one must undergo in order to even enter the store let alone purchase marijuana. The council's long-winded approach to determining exactly where marijuana retailers should set up shop in our state is eating away at the time our county could be using to set up responsible recreational marijuana outlets and establish the appropriate restrictions.

Morristown's Council did find time to ease curfew restrictions on two bars, Revolution and Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar. Owners of Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar got slapped with a curfew earlier in the pandemic for "failure to comply" with COVID-19 compliance regulations. But pandemic safety stood no chance against the need for free and plentiful access to alcohol.

So not to worry, we won't be running out of bars in Morristown anytime soon. Marijuana, however, has a ways to go.

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