Legislature considering several marijuana policy bills; coalition forms to support legalizing and regulating marijuana
Last update: April 17, 2015
Several improvements to New Jersey’s marijuana policies are being considered by the legislature. 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. The coalition — New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR ) — advocates replacing marijuana prohibition with legalization for adults, taxation, and regulation. NJUMR includes the ACLU of New Jersey, NAACP State Conference of New Jersey, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and MPP. 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 3,800 patients out of an estimated tens of thousands, through only three 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.