NJ marijuana legalization should forget age 21 requirement

To the Editor:

For many years, I worked at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, Monmouth County, NJ and proudly served as a NEA/NJEA union officer. As a retired higher education administrator and Democratic Socialist, I believe we must expand and encourage access to higher education. NJ Gov. Phil Murphy has been a leader on introducing free community college to New Jersey, and I am a supporter of his agenda.

Looking at statistics, a lot of the wonderful students and brilliant educators I worked with probably consumed cannabis (a high-level employee and a coworker of mine once came back from lunch reeking of reefer), and some of them ended up facing criminal charges for doing so, most often requiring appearances in local municipal courts. Even the campus police made arrests at times for nonviolent, adult marijuana offenses. It was always concerning to hear about a student facing drug charges of any kind, because of the impact on federal student aid. While a Brookdale student convicted of a murder charge such as Raquel Garajau, or college president convicted of stealing money from the school such as Peter Burnham, faces no eligibility bar to receiving federal aid, the same cannot be said for a good person convicted of marijuana possession. I’m not sure what kind of misguided message this policy sends except that if you decide to kill someone or steal from a public college, just don’t smoke a joint afterward, if you want to stay in school.

New Jersey is currently about to legalize personal possession of small amounts of cannabis, and set up a limited licensing system for growing and selling the herb. But it must be taken into account that New Jersey criminal law considers any person 18 or over to be an adult, which means that if pot is legal for persons only 21 and over, young adults will still be facing criminal convictions for possessing something that will become even more commonly socially accepted than ever. It sounds like society is going to entrap adults 18-20 into letting their guard down and admitting cannabis possession to NJ cops, under the mindset that it is now no big deal, while walking into a minefield of federal program and employment ineligibility, along with extorting cash for corrupt municipal court coffers.

If marijuana is legal, it needs to be legal for all adults, which means 18 and over under the law. The idea of following a flawed age policy based off a prohibitionist drinking age model is absurd and will only continue to get the age group most commonly busted for pot possession into legal trouble for something that is supposedly becoming legalized. This is a glaring oversight that must be corrected; otherwise our overzealous police departments will continue arresting legal adults 18-20 (particularly racial minorities) for marijuana possession. Gov. Phil Murphy is a great guy who needs everyone’s support, but he probably didn’t think of this, so let’s point it out to him to get the law right the first time.

CAROL “KITTY” HAFNER
Former Congressional Candidate
Box Elder, S.D.

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