NJUMR coalition advocates legalizing and regulating marijuana
Last update: August 16, 2016
A bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, A2068, was introduced at the beginning of this year by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, and more recently he introduced a bill that would allow the voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana — but only in Atlantic City — in an attempt to boost the city’s failing economy. Another bill, to tax and regulate marijuana statewide, is expected later this year from Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who recently went on a fact-finding mission to Colorado.
Voters throughout the state are ready for reform; 58 percent of New Jerseyans support replacing prohibition with regulation according to a 2015 poll. Yet, under current New Jersey law, 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.
An impressive coalition of public safety, medical, civil rights and religious organizations, and individuals is working to enact sensible marijuana policies in the Garden State, including the ACLU of New Jersey, NAACP State Conference of New Jersey, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and MPP. The coalition — New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR) —advocates ending prohibition by legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults. 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 despite onerous restrictions
Although the Garden State’s medical marijuana program was signed into law in 2010, implementation has been slow. Currently, it serves less than 8,000 patients — a far lower proportion of the population than most other medical cannabis states — despite having been made law more than five years ago. Meanwhile, only five of the six permitted treatment centers are operational. Gov. Chris Christie has attributed this to a lack of demand for medical marijuana and ignored the fact that some families have been forced to move to Colorado to access the medicine they need.
The low participation is more 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 380 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.
In a bright spot, a panel of experts that will be allowed to add additional qualifying conditions has finally been appointed, and petitions to add qualifying conditions are being accepted August 1 through August 31, 2016. Meanwhile, the legislature sent Gov. Chris Christie a bill that adds PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. He has until September 16 to sign or veto the bill, or it will become law without his signature. New Jersey is also one of the only jurisdictions that explicitly allows minors to use medical marijuana at school.