Poll Shows NJ Residents Split on Marijuana Legalization

NJ Residents are split over marijuana legalization, according to a 2014 Monmouth University/ Asbury Park Press poll.

NJ Residents are split over marijuana legalization, according to a 2014 Monmouth University/ Asbury Park Press poll.(PDF)

According to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll, New Jersey residents are divided on whether marijuana should be legalized, and are not convinced that a recent proposal in the state legislature to legalize marijuana use is a good idea. The poll finds that most state residents say that alcohol and tobacco pose greater dangers than marijuana. This poll is considered the first Garden State poll on the topic since State Senator Nick Scutari introduced a marijuana legalization bill.

When asked whether the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be made legal, New Jersey residents are split down the middle with just under half (48%) in support and an almost identical number (47%) opposed. The poll states that these numbers are similar to national trends, with an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in January finding 49% in favor and 48% opposed.

The poll results also demonstrate clear differences in opinion based on varied demographics. Poll data shows that democrats and independents are slightly more in favor of legalization than republicans. There are also significant differences in support across age and gender groups; New Jersey men are more likely than women to support marijuana, while younger adults under the age of 35 are more likely to support legalizing pot when compared to older residents.

Asked whether a bill allowing people over the age of 21 to purchase small amounts of marijuana from licensed state businesses, only 36% of New Jersey residents think it's a good idea while just under half (45%) think it's a bad idea. 18% had no opinion.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute summarized some of this in his news release about the poll:

“The marijuana debate has been engaged and neither side has the distinct advantage right now. There isn't a lot of support for the Scutari proposal, but most people actually see alcohol and tobacco as bigger dangers.”

Murray suggests that perhaps some of the opposition may simply be a reaction against legalizing something that has been illicit for so long.

The poll was conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from March 30th to April 1st, 2014, with a reported margin of error supporting the summary findings. New Jersey is split on the issue. It is now important to help educate everyone on the facts. Only be removing some of the stigma of drug addiction, which is already happening in New Jersey, will we gain access to the truth about drug abuse, addiction, and the role marijuana appears to play in drug addiction and treatment.

NJ marijuana opinion poll results
Courtesy Sunrise Detox New Jersey

Marijuana In Recovery — Why Not?

“If caffeine and nicotine are accepted in the program, and they are both mood-altering substances, how come weed isn't? Pretty soon doctors will be able to prescribe it. They already can prescribe it in some states.”

Most drugs are useful and manageable when properly prescribed and used, but history has made it clear that such is often not the case. Doctors can prescribe Oxycontin, and you can buy beer at the gas station. However, legality has absolutely nothing to do with addiction. (And it has never been shown that doctors are the best source of ideas for staying sober, except in the very rare cases when they are specifically trained to treat addiction.)

The First Step reads, “We admitted we were powerless over (alcohol) (our addictions) – that our lives had become unmanageable.” It doesn't say and that our lives had become unmanageable. Our lives were unmanageable because we were powerless over a drug.

There are many different kinds of mood-altering substances. Some are clearly problems, some less so, some aren't problems at all, and some are problematic over such long periods that we tend to think they're not major issues. Nicotine is an excellent example. Tobacco products are the number-one preventable cause of death in the world, yet the next cigarette, cigar, chew or dip isn't likely to be the one that kills us – as far as we can know. Obviously there is, at some point, a level of exposure that makes the difference, but we can't see it and it's easy to ignore.

Denial, as they say, is not just a river in Africa. And, for the record, many treatment centers no longer permit nicotine use during treatment and strongly encourage newcomers to quit smoking. Their position is that an addiction is an addiction, and that we are either ready to be clean or we are not. While nicotine may be an “outside issue” in AA, it certainly isn't in NA, but in both cases the fellowships take the position that the drugs with the most serious immediate effects need to take priority, and experience has shown that to be the case. No fellowship that I know of, however, has ever stated that they believe nicotine to be harmless.

Caffeine, in anything like reasonable quantities (200-250 mg. a day, not five energy drinks), is unlikely to make our lives unmanageable. Small quantities, in fact, are now believed to be good for us, especially if gotten from brewed coffee.

Drugs like alcohol, opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines and – yes – weed, are a different story. All have been shown, in repeated scientific studies that have been published in reputable scientific journals for the review of any expert who wishes to challenge them, to have both short-term and long-term effects that can negatively affect both users and the people around them.

Marijuana works on the same pathways in the brain as other drugs of abuse. As long as those pathways are kept active, the brain cannot make the repairs that allow long-term recovery to be successful. From that standpoint alone, there is no place for marijuana in recovery.  Nicotine works in a slightly different way, and does not seem to impair recovery as much.  However, recent research has indicated that it may have more undesirable effects than has been believed.

From an overall point of view, consider that the purpose of recovery is to learn to live a healthy, productive life without the crutch of drugs – to face life on life's terms, to learn to live, love and prosper in a healthy way, and fit into the rest of society.

There are many things that can block that progress, from eating disorders to sexual obsessions, shopping, gaming and any other activity that can be used – to excess – to keep us from having to deal with life.  When we depart from our purpose of living life on life's terms, and need to use things outside ourselves to make us feel good, we are not truly in recovery.  The exception, obviously, are medications such as antidepressants, which do not affect the brain in the same way as drugs of abuse.

Sobriety is about getting sober. Either you're on board that flight, or you're not.

Denial on the street: “But officer, I slowed way down!”

There's an old cop joke about the guy who rolled through a stop sign, then complained to the officer who stopped him, “Hey, I slowed way down, what's the difference?” Supposedly the officer says to the guy, “OK, fine. I’m going to take this flashlight and hit you on the head. When you want me to slow down, say ‘Slow down!’, and when you want me to stop, say ‘Stop!’”

I answer a couple of dozen emails and blog comments a week, dealing with various aspects of addiction and recovery. Every now and then it becomes clear that someone wants me to cosign a desire to experiment with using again. Most often it’s folks who want to know if I think it would be OK for them to have a glass of wine at dinner occasionally, or folks who have stopped using some drugs but want to go on using another (usually marijuana). So I think it’s time to write a few words about this particular form of denial.

Of course it’s denial! Here’s someone who has had enough problems in their life from using alcohol or other drugs that they have quit, or are trying to. In most cases it is safe to assume it hasn't been the easiest thing that they’ve ever done. Presumably they went through that for a reason. Yet they come to a website that is obviously about encouraging recovery, and inquire if I think it’s OK for them to mess around with their recovery.

Sure, it’s OK, because there’s no recovery involved. If we aren't convinced that we need to remain clean and concentrate on learning to live in such a way that our desire to use is minimized and hopefully eliminated, then we aren't in recovery — whether or not we’re clean. It’s that simple. No such thing as partial pregnancy, and no such thing as being partially in recovery. It’s quite possible that we don’t need to be in recovery. But, if that’s the case, why did we come to the site?

If you think you have a problem, do whatever you can to solve it. Don’t mess around. If you don’t think you have a problem, then live it up. Eventually things will become clear, one way or another.

But don't tell this old cop that you want to slow down.

Why Can’t I Drink Or Smoke A Little Weed? I Was A Pill Addict!

Professionals refer to “addiction,” or “addictive disease,” rather than to heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, etc. The fact of the matter, little understood by the world at large, is that we don’t become addicted to drugs, but to the effects that they have on our brains — specifically on the pleasure center. The pleasure center is located in the sub-cortical region of the brain which means, among other things, that we can't control it directly.  (That's why “Just Say No” is a cruel joke.)

US Dept. of Transportation (

Drugs short-circuit the process by either stimulating the production of these neurotransmitters, or by mimicking their actions.  Drugs allow us to control the production of the good feelings. Since we are pre-programmed to seek those feelings, we tend to do it quite a lot. Over time, actual physical changes take place in our brains in order to accommodate the unnatural levels of chemicals.

This occurs in several ways, but we’ll simplify it by saying that our neurons grow additional receptor sites to deal with the surplus. This means, in turn, that we need more of the drug’s effects to reach the levels that give us pleasure. This tolerance is one of the first signs of developing addiction. Eventually we reach a point where we need the stimulation in order to function anything like normally, and we’re hooked for sure.

When we go “cold turkey,” the sudden absence of chemicals causes the syndromes that we call acute withdrawal. The length of the acute phase lasts anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the drug. Simple drugs, like alcohol, have the shortest acute phases, while those that metabolize into other active compounds can take much longer. Methadone is an excellent example.  It has not only a longer but more severe acute withdrawal than other opiates. The symptoms of withdrawal, generally speaking, are the reverse of whatever effects the drugs had. Opioids, for example, calm us and slow the action of our digestive tract, and the withdrawal symptoms are the jitters, nausea, diarrhea and the creepy-crawlies, among others.

Those extra receptor sites slowly become dormant and stop pestering us for stimulation, but the main thing to remember is that while the body and brain recover from the changes, the changes do not necessarily go away, and if they do, it is usually over a period of years.

If we use drugs or alcohol in early recovery, we will interfere with the progression to normalcy. Any extra stimulation, whether by the drug of choice or another, can have this effect; we don’t have to get drunk or high. The neurotransmitters involved are the same combination, and using any mood-altering drug can lead back to an active addiction.  At the very least, it will prolong the recovery process.

Even after our brains are back as close to normal as they're going to get, exposure to drugs can reactivate those dormant receptor sites, and start the cravings all over again.  This is true of marijuana and booze, as well as other drugs, since they all work by stimulating the reward center.  In addition, drugs tend to make us more likely to do stupid things, like use more drugs. 

So we can obviously drink or use cannabis if we wish.  As addicts are so fond of pointing out, “It's my life!”*  However, if we do so even in small amounts, we are likely to end up deep in addiction again.

*How bogus is that?  Like we have no effect on anyone but ourselves.  Addict thinking.