Governor signs first-of-its-kind bill; new coalition advocates legalizing and regulating marijuana
Last update: December 3, 2015
On November 9, Gov. Chris Christie signed A4587, which requires schools and some other facilities to create policies to allow medical marijuana to be administered. No other state has passed such a law. Thank you to everyone who made this important reform a reality!
Several other improvements to New Jersey’s marijuana policies have been under consideration by the legislature this session. These include: Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s decriminalization bill, A218, which would impose a civil fine for the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana; a bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol; and several proposals to improve New Jersey’s existing medical marijuana program.
Voters are ready for reform. A poll released in June 2013 found that 67% of New Jersey voters favor reducing penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil fine, with no possibility of jail time. Gov. Christie has threatened to veto such measures if they passed. So it is especially important for your lawmakers know that you want them to support A218. Please email them today!
Meanwhile, an impressive coalition of public safety, medical, civil rights and religious organizations, and individuals has formed to work for broader reform in the Garden State, including legalization. The coalition — New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR ) — includes the ACLU of New Jersey, NAACP State Conference of New Jersey, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and MPP. NJUMR advocates ending prohibition by legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults, a proposition supported by 58 percent of New Jerseyans, according to a 2015 poll. Please check out the coalition’s site, and then urge your legislators to support treating marijuana similarly to alcohol.
New Jersey medical marijuana program slowly growing
Although the Garden State’s medical marijuana program was signed into law in 2010, implementation has been slow. Last summer, several local editorial boards called out the “dysfunction” of the state program. Currently, it serves only about 5,236 patients out of an estimated tens of thousands, through only five operational treatment centers, despite having been made law more than four years ago. Gov. Chris Christie has attributed this to a lack of demand for medical marijuana. However, the low participation is more likely caused by unreasonably strict requirements.
Another obstacle facing patients in New Jersey is the fact that not all doctors can recommend medical marijuana. Unlike other states with medical marijuana laws in effect, only doctors who register with the state are allowed to qualify patients for New Jersey’s program. Information on how to find a doctor who can qualify patients for the MMP is available here.
ACLU study shows New Jersey’s harsh marijuana laws result in racially disproportionate arrest rates
In New Jersey, possession of even a single joint for non-medical purposes is punishable by up to six months of incarceration and up to a $1,000 fine.
A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in New Jersey are 2.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.