Legislative session begins with legalization on the agenda

 

Last update: March 26, 2018

 

Marijuana legalization was definitely on the minds of New Jersey’s lawmakers as they began their 2018 session. Sen. Nicholas Scutari and Asm. Reed Gusciora, who have been leaders on this issue, have reintroduced SB 830 / AB 1348, which would tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over. In addition, Asm. Gusciora has introduced A 3581, which unlike Sen. Scutari’s bill would allow home cultivation, but would put a low cap on the number of grower/processors licensed in the state.

Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to legalize marijuana, emphasizing the need to address the harms caused by prohibition. He recently included revenues from marijuana taxes in his budget and called on lawmakers to pass a bill this year. Stephen Sweeney, the Senate President, has repeatedly expressed his support as well. The details of a final bill are expected to be the subject of extensive debate.

Unfortunately, the opposition has already begun raising the same old fears, ignoring the years of data on the successes of the first states to end prohibition, Colorado and Washington. Please let your lawmakers know that you support ending New Jersey’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition, and thank Gov. Murphy for his ongoing commitment to the issue.


Progress on the horizon to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program

 

New Jersey’s program has had low patient participation, likely caused by unreasonably strict requirements, like requiring that patient eligibility be reassessed at least every 90 days. New Jersey is one of only three medical cannabis states that doesn’t have a general category for intractable or severe pain, and the prices for medical cannabis are among the highest in the nation, making the program inaccessible for many patients. One improvement in recent years was the addition of PTSD as a qualifying condition in 2016.

Gov. Murphy, shortly after taking office in 2018, required the Department of Health to evaluate ways to expand access to the program. Hopefully, the Department of Health will adopt the recommendations of a panel of experts, which would add irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, Tourette’s syndrome, and chronic pain as qualifying conditions. If chronic pain is added, that would go a long way toward helping patients reduce their use of dangerous opioid painkillers. An expansion in the number of businesses — New Jersey only has six licensed in the entire state — should help reduce prices and improve access for patients.


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