New Jersey legislators prepare to tax and regulate marijuana when Christie leaves office

 

Last update: March 17, 2017

 

Bills to tax and regulate marijuana were introduced in the New Jersey Assembly by both Democrat (Reed Gusciora) and Republican (Michael Patrick Carroll) lawmakers in 2016. In addition, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have travelled to Colorado to learn more about legalization there and were excited by what they learned. Stephen Sweeney, the Senate President, said: “I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It’s safe, it’s well managed.” He also declared that lawmakers “intend to move quickly” to pass a bill as soon as Gov. Chris Christie leaves office; his promised veto seems to be the only remaining impediment to progress in New Jersey.

Gov. Christie recently said, “You’re d*%n right I’m the only impediment [to legalizing marijuana]. And I am going to remain the only impediment until January of 2018.” He is out of touch with his constituents, however; 58% of New Jerseyans support replacing prohibition with regulation according to a 2015 poll, and Gov. Christie’s approval ratings are at a near-record low of 19%.

MPP is working with New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR) ) to enact sensible marijuana policies in the Garden State. Please check out the coalition’s site, and then urge your legislators to support treating marijuana similarly to alcohol.


Progress slowly being made in expanding New Jersey’s medical marijuana program

 

The Garden State’s medical marijuana program currently serves around 12,500 patients, after adding about 4,600 new patients in 2016. That is still a far lower proportion of the population than most other medical cannabis states, however, despite medical cannabis being legalized almost seven years ago. Meanwhile, only five of the six permitted treatment centers are operational.

The low participation is most likely caused by unreasonably strict requirements, including that patient eligibility must be reassessed at least every 90 days, and doctors must register and take a course in order to recommend medical marijuana. As a result, only about 460 doctors — out of over 27,000 actively practicing in the state — can recommend. In addition, the prices for medical cannabis are among the highest in the nation, making the program inaccessible for many patients, 48% of whom receive benefits from Medicaid or similar programs.

Thankfully, a panel of experts that can add additional qualifying conditions was finally appointed last year, and in February 2017 it held hearings on petitions to add conditions, including chronic pain. If chronic pain is added, that would go a long way toward helping patients reduce their use of dangerous opioid painkillers. In addition, in September 2016, Gov. Christie signed a bill that adds PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis.


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