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What Can New Jersey Learn from Canada’s Decision to Legalize Marijuana?

Canada recently passed a law making marijuana legal throughout the country. In the United States, the question of legalizing marijuana is discussed on a state by state basis, and the state of New Jersey is considering bringing the issue up for a vote in the not-too-distant future. In looking at potential legislation, our lawmakers would be wise to consider the decisions that our neighbors to the north made before passing their law: there are some things that New Jersey can learn from the way that Canada legalized marijuana possession.

One of the biggest lessons to be learned is unfortunately out of the hands of state lawmakers. That lesson has to do with legalizing at the national level (which is what Canada did instead of leaving it to the individual provinces). In the United States, though several states have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the federal government has not taken that step. That means that even if people are smoking illegally in Colorado or Nevada (or eventually in New Jersey), they would still be committing a federal crime. This needs to be addressed.

Another thing that Canada did right in making marijuana possession legal is to impose modest taxes on cannabis. By being reasonable in the tax it imposes, the country has effectively knocked the black market out of the picture. This will go a long way toward eliminating crime, making sure that the product that is sold is safe, and ensuring that the state gets its fair share of sales taxes which can be used for the benefit of the populace. Taxes can also be collected from licensed sellers.

Canada has also linked its age for purchase of marijuana to the age for legally purchasing alcohol. This makes sense, though in Canada their regulations allow the sale of both to those who are 18.

Finally, with the passage of laws legalizing marijuana use, the Canadian government has also made the decision to make it easier for those who have previously been convicted of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana to seal their conviction records. Doing the same for New Jersey residents who have this type of conviction on their records will go a long way toward eliminating hardships that having these records can cause in terms of employment, housing, licensing and other issues.

If you have any questions about legalized marijuana and how it affects your existing criminal case, contact our office today.