Who really benefits from illegal marijuana in New Jersey?

NEW JERSEY: When a little known committee dismissed a complaint filed against a New Jersey Assemblywoman, it shined some rare sunlight on an industry raking in a healthy profit from marijuana prohibition: Substance abuse prevention and treatment centers. 

The Joint Committee for Ethical Standards at the New Jersey Legislature on Tuesday dismissed a complaint filed against Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R. Montmouth) who had been accused of appearing to benefit from Garden State’s marijuana laws.

Gov. Chris Christie has been lauded in some circles for voicing support for new approaches to drug law offenders, mainly by putting some people into treatment instead of prison. But that political cover also keeps all drug prohibition laws (including those for marijuana) and penalties (including jail) fully intact. The governor’s new approach may also be growing a private industry that has little oversight.

Businesses and nonprofits related to substance abuse and education (and have close ties to state agencies and elected officials) are more than happy to see people funneled out of the courts right to their front doors; bringing bags of tax dollars with them. A law passed last year, Senate Bill 881, forces some of those arrested for drug offenses (including any amount of marijuana) into state-contracted (sometimes custodial) substance treatment programs. A judge must deem the offender to be “addicted” to cannabis. It started as a pilot program in northern N.J. It will cover the entire state in three years.

Angelini is the executive director of a non-profit called Prevention First, a company whose mission focuses on youth addiction and even violence issues. While Prevention First does not operate any substance treatment centers, they do provide the training and state certifications required for those who work within those facilities. Prevention First also facilitates directories of drug treatment facilities and options in Monmouth County.

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