New Jersey legislators prepare to tax and regulate marijuana when Christie leaves office
Last update: December 13, 2016
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.
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 six 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. Perhaps most importantly, chronic pain is not a qualifying condition, even though marijuana is far safer than opioids.
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 were accepted in August. In addition, in September 2016, Gov. Christie signed a bill that adds PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. New Jersey is also one of the only jurisdictions that explicitly allows minors to use medical marijuana at school.