New Jersey college forms Cannabis Institute to advise local, state officials on weed policy
New Jersey lawmakers’ attempts to legalize recreational marijuana sparked William Paterson University professors from a range of academic disciplines to form the Cannabis Institute as a resource for local and state legislators.
“We’re hoping policy is informed by research rather than public perception,” William Paterson University President Richard J. Helldobler said Thursday shortly after the university announced the institute's creation.
The institute includes a dozen faculty and staff members with diverse academic backgrounds from public health to criminal justice, whose research includes work on the effects of marijuana use. They will serve in an advisory role to municipal, county and state policy makers on marijuana-related issues.
The move to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana for adults has strong support from top state elected officials, most notably Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who made it a campaign promise. Though legislation has some support from Trenton lawmakers, it has been stalled over debates on the tax rate and other details.
“With the imminent decision whether to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, there are burning questions around public health, socialization of marijuana, its use in the workplace, financial implications,” Helldobler said. “We thought by using the intellectual brain trust of our faculty we could help inform policy and process. That might make it — should it be legalized — an easier and smoother transition in New Jersey.”
While the institute may serve to provide research for lawmakers on weed-related bills, the university president wanted to make it clear that the institution isn’t for or against marijuana legalization.
“I don’t think that our position of the institute is to take a stand one way or another,” Helldobler said. “I think our job is to say, ‘If you have a question regarding the use of cannabis or the drug policies or the effects of cannabis, we’re a place you can come to where you can ask your questions.’ ”
Rahi Abouk, a university associate professor of economics, finance and global business, will be the director of the institute. A specialist in the economics of substance abuse, Abouk is currently studying the labor market effects of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
Members of the institute first met during the fall semester. The group plans to hold conferences, seminars, forums and public lectures on research, data and policy analysis, though events have not yet been coordinated.
Helldobler said students will have an opportunity to engage in research with professors who serve in the institute.
New Jersey already has legalized marijuana for medical use, and this past fall Stockton University started offering students an interdisciplinary minor in cannabis studies.
Original Article by North Jersey