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Legalized Pot, Not More Gambling, Could Save Atlantic City

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Published on:
Jun/16/2016

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — (Associated Press) - Forget gambling, nightclubs or spas. One New Jersey lawmaker believes the future of Atlantic City may lie in pot.

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Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said he will introduce a bill Thursday to let voters decide whether to make recreational use of marijuana legal only in Atlantic City.

It’s called the Promoting Opportunities for Tomorrow, or POT, bill.

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.

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Here’s a buzz kill: The pot would be taxed at 20 percent of its market price. The 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.

But 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.

Marijuana in Atlantic City would be regulated by the state Department of Law and Public Safety. Half the tax money collected would be deposited in Atlantic City’s general fund; 30 percent would fund state transportation projects; 10 percent would be deposited into an anti-drug law enforcement fund; and 10 percent would go to women’s health, family planning, and similar programs.

- Wayne Parry, Associated Press

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