cannabis wins big in NJ

Several lawmakers are focusing on an expansion of medical cannabis in NJ while the patience of some waiting for legalization is wearing thin for those who expected Murphy to legalize cannabis within 100 days.

New Jersey State Senators Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Nick Scutari (D-Union) introduced a bill last week that would further expand the medical cannabis in NJ. The action is in response to Governor Murphy’s announcement of the expansion of medical cannabis NJ to allow more qualifying conditions and slightly cheaper registration fees and requirements on patients and physicians.

Vitale’s bill would make several changes and additions, including the following:

  • Raise the monthly allowed amount of medical marijuana from 2 ounces to 2.5 ounces in 2019 and three ounces in 2020;
  • Remove the limit on how much medical pot terminally ill patients and hospice patients can receive;
  • Remove the ban on selling edible medical pot to minors;
  • Permit multiple written instructions for patients authorizing up to a 180-day supply at one time, up from 90 days;
  • Allow patients to receive medical cannabis from any dispensary, known as Alternative Treatment Centers;
  • Permit two designated caregivers for patients, with the ability to petition the state for additional caregivers;
  • Remove the requirement for a psychiatric evaluation of minors prior to enrollment.

Scutari is also the primary sponsor of the leading legislation on the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey, although it is the most prohibitive of the various bills for legalization that have been introduced (besides Ron Rice’s decriminalization bill.)

The Expansion Of Medical Cannabis in NJ continues In the State Assembly

Assemblywoman JoAnne Downey (D-Monmouth) sponsored and introduced a joint resolution urging the DEA and the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule I status.

     The federal Controlled Substances Act sets out five “schedules” of controlled substances, known as Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V.  A substance is placed in Schedule I if it has “high potential for abuse,” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and if there is “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”  Substances in Schedule I cannot legally be prescribed by a practitioner.

     Medical marijuana has been legalized in 30 states, including New Jersey, and in the District of Columbia, and recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine states and in the District of Columbia. Although policymakers in these states have found that the use of marijuana is appropriate and safe, and millions of residents of these states have legally used marijuana under state law, nonetheless marijuana is a Schedule I substance under federal law, along with heroin, LSD, mescaline, and other substances that are known to be dangerous and potentially lethal.

     The classification of marijuana in Schedule I means that citizens who legally use marijuana under their states’ laws are violating federal law. The classification of marijuana in Schedule I also means that scientists and researchers attempting to study marijuana are faced with limited access and limited supplies, making marijuana research difficult.

     By contrast with Schedule I, substances are placed in Schedules II, III, IV, and V if they have accepted medical uses, and such substances may be prescribed by physicians, although the substances have a potential for abuse.  Federal law provides a process by which the Drug Enforcement Administration (the DEA) may reclassify a substance from one schedule to another. Removing marijuana from Schedule I and reclassifying it into an appropriate schedule would reflect the medical uses and therapeutic effects of this substance.

Last month, Downey introduced a bill to expand the medical program in New Jersey, specifically with a focus on minors.

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