Could Legalized Drugs Rescue Sinking Atlantic City?

This time of year brings back childhood memories of Atlantic City. Our family gathered at the Philly Reading Railroad station for the one-hour ride to Atlantic City. We stayed at a small hotel a city block from the Boardwalk. Soon we were sunning on the beach and jumping into the waves.

Then, after a hot dog and salt water taffy lunch from a Boardwalk stand, we ventured out onto Steel Pier to play games, ride the roller coaster and watch the diving horse show. In the evening on the Pier, we went inside the ballroom to sway to the music of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, featuring his new boy singer, Frank Sinatra.

Many decades have passed since those family vacation days in Atlantic City. After World War II, air travel took vacationers elsewhere, and the city lost its appeal. Then, when casino gambling was approved in the mid-1970s, crowds returned to give new life to the old resort town.

Big hotels sprung up along the Boardwalk, and for two decades, Atlantic City flourished as the only gambling mecca outside Nevada. However, like all flashes of man-made brilliance, the glow faded again. Casino gambling was approved in New England, New York and Pennsylvania, taking vacationers elsewhere.

And today, with many of the glitzy resort hotels empty, Atlantic City is once again a ghost town. Is this the final chapter? Maybe not. A politician has just come up with what he believes is a simple, but brilliant plan to return the iconic Jersey Shore town to its former popularity.

Consider, he says, now that some states have legalized marijuana, let’s take pot luck and sell it in Atlantic City. To entice voters and retailers, he also suggests, as with cigarettes and booze, a 20% tax on the sale of pot products. His pitch is that it will bring much needed revenue to the city for repairing streets, improving services and other ways restore the former glory.

He predicts the casinos will flourish again, but it may be a gamble to believe legalized pot will bring families back to Atlantic City. From the past history of marijuana elsewhere, everyone knows that letting just a few light drugs into town, the heavy drugs will soon follow. Whatever is left decent in the city will completely disappear into the pot of violence and crime. Sorry, Atlantic City. You’ll have to come up with a better way to be a favorite sun and surf destination again.

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