As photographers snapped pictures, his wife captured video of Don DeZarn on a cellphone and asked him “who” it was for.
“Who is this for?” DeZarn said, exhaling a puff of smoke. “This is for all my brothers and sisters who are currently being held prisoners of war by our government as a result of the war on drugs.”
Though no police were on the scene to arrest him, DeZarn, 46, of East Windsor, called the stunt a public statement for marijuana legalization, one of the chief tenets of his campaign for the state Senate seat in the 14th District.
Alongside Assembly candidates Sean O’Connor and Steven Uccio, both of East Windsor, DeZarn represents the Libertarian party, running on a platform that focuses on cutting property taxes, increasing government transparency and “legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana in New Jersey.”
“The fact that our state freely regulates, sells and taxes alcohol — while prosecuting people who use marijuana in the privacy of their own home — is insanity to me,” DeZarn said. “It’s completely insanity that we spend that type of money when there’s far worse things out there.”
Calling himself a “lightweight,” DeZarn said the drug should be regulated similar to alcohol — no smoking in public or behind the wheel of a car — in order to reap benefits for the state’s coffers while saving on the costs of pursuing drug charges against marijuana users, including police time, prosecutions and incarceration.
“It wouldn’t be a free-for all,” DeZarn said. “You should be held to the same standards as anyone under the influence of alcohol or any other drug,” DeZarn said.
The Colorado and Washington legislatures have already approved legalization, and DeZarn said the influx of revenue could inspire the New Jersey Legislature to pass similar laws.
DeZarn said he saw it first-hand in his native Kentucky: When one “dry” town finally started allowing alcohol to be sold within its borders, other municipalities soon followed.
“Once our Legislature sees the type of money being brought into the revenue streams, their morals are going to go out the window,” DeZarn said. “They will see that source of money and they’re going to be all over it.”
Speaking to reporters, DeZarn admitted that the campaign might be a “long shot,” but said the campaign answers the call of residents who are dissatisfied with the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Those candidates carry thick résumés and election results to the polls in November.
The incumbent, Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro), has handily defeated two Republican candidates in the last two elections.
Republican challenger Peter Inverso, president and CEO of Roma Bank, is fighting for the seat he held from 1992 until 2007.
“The best I can do is be the loudest voice possible,” DeZarn said.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, DeZarn said his image goes against the grain of a typical marijuana user.
“One of the big things that will help with the legalization effort is just people coming out of the closet,” he said. “Most of the public has the image of the pothead who sits on the couch all day smoking, watching TV and eating Cheetos. We need to show people that it’s all right to say, ‘I smoke marijuana.’ ”
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