Most N.J. patients still waiting for access; Gov. Christie threatens to veto civil fine for possession
Although Gov. John Corzine signed New Jersey's medical marijuana law in January 2010, implementation has been slow. On August 9, 2012, the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) registry finally opened to qualified patients, and one year later, the state Department of Health reported that approximately 1,200 patients are registered with the state. Unfortunately, more than three and a half years after the law went into effect, most of New Jersey's patients have not yet been able to access medical marijuana legally.
New Jersey's law does not allow patients or caregivers to cultivate medical marijuana. The only state-legal sources of medical marijuana are alternative treatment centers (ATCs). The law allows for six ATCs, and six applicants were ggranted licenses in March 2011. However, only three have gotten final approval — in part due to repeated delays by regulators, and in part due to problems getting local permission — and only one has been able to open for business, serving a limited number of patients.
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.
Sadly, the slow implementation has negatively impacted New Jersey patients. While waiting for the state to implement dispensaries, multiple sclerosis patient John Ray Wilson was convicted for growing 17 marijuana plants for his personal medical use. Wilson was sentenced to five years in prison and began serving his sentence in January 2011.
Gov. Christie threatens to veto sensible reform to marijuana possession penalty
On June 25, 2012, the New Jersey General Assembly approved A1465, a sensible bill that would reform marijuana possession penalties, in a 44-31 vote. Sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the bill would impose civil fines starting at $150 on possession of up to 15 grams (about half an ounce) of marijuana. In addition, Sen. Nicholas Scutari sponsors S1977, which would impose a $50 fine on up to 50 grams of marijuana (about 1.5 ounces).
A poll released in June 2013 found that 61% of New Jersey voters favor such a proposal.
Both bills are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please ask your senator to support these commonsense measures. Unfortunately, Gov. Chris Christie has said he will veto A1465.
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.
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