NJ lawmaker pushes legal pot bill

Atlantic CityCould legalized  marijuana play a role in shaping the economic future of Atlantic City?

At least one New Jersey lawmaker thinks it is worth a try, according to an Associated Press report, and so Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora is pushing a legislative proposal he calls the POT (Promoting Opportunities for Tomorrow) bill that will let voters decide  whether to make recreational use of marijuana legal only in Atlantic City.

It would put the question on a statewide general election ballot asking whether to permit the commercial growth, sale, possession, consumption, and taxation of marijuana within the boundaries of Atlantic City by those 21 and older.

Here’s a buzz kill: The pot would be taxed at 20 percent of its market price. Revenue would be shared by Atlantic City and the state.

Lawmakers have been searching for ways to revive Atlantic City’s flagging fortunes, including severe financial problems brought on by the contraction of its casino industry. Four of the city’s 12 casinos shut down in 2014, and the state is eyeing a takeover of the city’s finances and major decision-making power unless it can come up with a turnaround plan in five months.

Gusciora wrote in the bill that criminalization of marijuana “is archaic and has had a disparate, harmful impact on minority communities” throughout New Jersey, including Atlantic City.

“A well-designed and heavily regulated marijuana industry would move Atlantic City’s economy into the 21st century and provide extreme economic benefits to a new generation of Atlantic City residents and business interests, including existing hotels and casinos,” he wrote.

Leading city officials do not agree.

City Council President Marty Small said drugs are not the way to balance the city’s books.

“Though we appreciate the Assemblyman’s efforts to create additional revenue streams for Atlantic City, I can’t support promoting drug use,” said Small, a Democrat.

Republican Mayor Don Guardian declined comment.

In a similar vein, Nevada voters will decide in November if they want to legalize recreational weed. Recent polls suggest it has a good chance of passing

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: 

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