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New Jersey Lt. Gov. Candidates Clash On Marijuana Legalization

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Candidates vying to be New Jersey’s next lieutenant governor had a heated debated about marijuana legalization on Monday night.

Republican candidate Carlos Rendo, currently the mayor of Woodcliff Lake, tore into his Democratic opponent and her running mate, calling them “the most anti-cop, anti-law enforcement ticket in the history of the state of New Jersey.”

“What are we gonna have here in the state of New Jersey? A bunch of criminals,out in the street, high on pot and protected in a sanctuary state,” he said. “So my question is, what was [Democratic gubernatorial nominee] Phil Murphy smoking when he thought about that platform?”

Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, responded that “taxation of marijuana and its sales will be the route to go in.”

Citing polls that show “the residents in New Jersey are on the side of legalization,” Oliver said that Rendo and his gubernatorial running mate Kim Guadagno (who is the state’s current lieutenant governor) don’t go far enough with their plan that endorses simple decriminalization of cannabis possession.

“Decriminalization alone will not allow for regulating,” she said.

The Democrat also decried stark racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws.

“There is no broader use of, for instance, marijuana possession by black and brown children,” Oliver pointed out, “but they are treated differently in our criminal justice system.”

Rendo seemed to dismiss the notion that the criminal justice system has racially disparate impacts.

“If you commit a crime, you’re gonna get locked up. Simple as that,” he argued. “Crime is not black, white, yellow or green. A crime is a crime.”

The Republican also gave a shout out to the Reagan administration’s war on drugs as well as a now-infamous TV commercial comparing a smashed egg to the brains of people who consume drugs.

“I grew up during the 1980s, and one of the commercials that had an impact on me was Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs,” he said. “And I remember a commercial that said, ‘This is an egg and this is the egg on drugs.’ That impacted me and there’s a reason why that commercial was done, because of the impact on the adolescent of marijuana use.”

For an in-depth look at where the candidates in next month’s election stand on marijuana policy, see Marijuana Moment’s comprehensive overview.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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