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New Jersey

  • by NORML October 28, 2014

    vote_keyboardNORML PAC is endorsing Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in her campaign to be elected to the United States Congress representing the 12th Congressional District in New Jersey.

    “Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a proponent of reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws during her time in Trenton. She voted in support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey, co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana in the garden state, and supports a move to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District should vote to send her to Congress where she will be a great asset in pursuing reform at the national level.”

    Bonnie Watson Coleman was named by MSNBC as one of the 30 women candidates to watch in 2014 and was named one of the top five female pro-marijuana candidates in Freedom Leaf Magazine.

    You can learn more about her campaign, including how to donate and volunteer, on her website her Facebook page.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 22, 2014

    GovChristieDuring his second inaugural address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had some harsh words for our War on Drugs:

    “We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse,” Governor Christie stated, “We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.”

    While critiques of the War on Drugs are always welcomed (Governor Christie had previously made similar statements), it is hard to take his comments seriously when you consider his record regarding sensible reforms to New Jersey’s marijuana laws.

    The same day he was calling for an end to this failed policy, two pieces of legislation that would have made pragmatic changes to New Jersey’s marijuana laws were sitting on his desk awaiting signature. The first would have allowed state farmers to receive licenses for industrial hemp cultivation as soon as the federal government changed the national policy on the issue. The other, Senate Bill 1220, would have ensured patients enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program would be able to receive organ transplants and not be disqualified because of their medicinal use of cannabis. You would think that a governor who just stood at a podium and lambasted our prohibition as a failed policy, would immediately leave the stage and eagerly sign these pieces of legislation.

    He didn’t. These two important measures sat on his desk, unsigned and were ultimately doomed to failure by Governor Christie’s pocket veto.

    In the previous few years, Governor Christie declared that he would veto any legislation decriminalizing marijuana that came to his desk and also fought against rational reforms to the state’s medical marijuana program tooth and nail. He eventually capitulated slightly on the latter, but not before watering down many proposed amendments to the state’s program.

    We appreciate the Governor’s sentiment and welcome him in joining the overwhelming majority of Americans who think the War on Drugs has failed, but his statements are merely political bluster until his rhetoric is matched by his actions. While the ensuing years (and continual rise in public support) will only lead to more politicians, both aspiring and those currently in power, joining us in our call for a new approach to marijuana, we must be vigilante. Actions speak louder than words. If Governor Christie (and President Obama for that matter) want the rubber to meet the road between their statements and actual public policy, they will need to follow these flowery words with legitimate action.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 25, 2013

    njnormThe New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 4-1 in favor of Assembly Bill 2415. This legislation would legalize the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp. Members of NORML New Jersey were present to testify in favor of this legislation.

    “We commend the Committee for taking a common sense approach to allow the growth of industrial hemp in New Jersey,” stated NORML New Jersey Executive Director Evan Nison, “Our cannabis laws are nonsensical, and few issues embody this more obviously and plainly than the prohibition of industrial hemp. We hope the absurdity of these laws will encourage members of the legislature and the public to reevaluate marijuana laws across the board.”

    “The passage of this bill will help pressure the Federal Government to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, much like nearly all other industrialize counties do, to help our environment and provide another crop for farmers.” Nison continued, “Many members of Congress are already supportive of such reforms, and states showing an eagerness to allow this crop will encourage Congress to get it done. ”

    The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to a 2005 Congressional Resource Service (CRS) report. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing. Assembly Bill 2415 would allow New Jersey to authorize a licensed, statewide hemp industry. A2415 now awaits action on the floor of the New Jersey Assembly.

    For more information contact Evan Nison, Executive Director of NORML New Jersey at Evan@normlnj.org

    NJ: You can quickly and easily contact your elected officials in support of this legislation using NORML’s Take Action Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 23, 2013

    Republican Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation, Senate Bill 2842, into law modifying aspects of the state’s medical marijuana regulations.

    Specifically, the law amends requirements that state-licensed medical cannabis producers and distributors be limited to providing patients with no more than three strains of the plant – a regulatory rule that has been in place since the program’s inception some three years ago. Proponents of the rule change argued that lifting the three-strain cap will foster the production and distribution of varieties of cannabis high in CBD (cannabidiol) content. Cannabidiol is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that possesses a variety of therapeutic properties. However, it is typically present at relatively low levels in conventional strains of marijuana, which typically are bred to possess higher quantities of THC – the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

    Senate Bill 2842 also allows for cannabis distributors to produce marijuana-infused edible products. However, at the insistence of the Governor, consumption of such products will be limited to those age 18 and younger.

    Governor Christie previously vetoed language that sought to streamline regulations so that qualified patients under the age of 18 could more readily access medicinal cannabis.

    Under present New Jersey law, authorized patients may only obtain medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries. To date, however, few facilities are actively up and running. Earlier this month, the state’s Economic Developmental Authority approved a $375,000 loan to the Compassionate Care Foundation dispensary, which plans to open its doors in mid-October.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 22, 2013

    Legislative chambers in four states — Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New Jersey — have passed measures to reclassify minor marijuana offenses as non-criminal violations, punishable by a fine only — no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record.

    In Hawaii, Senate lawmakers this month unanimously passed Senate Bill 472, which reclassifies marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction. On Thursday, March 14, members of the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a revised version of this proposal (SB 472, HD1). This revised version caps fine-only penalties at no more than $100 for violations by those age 18 or older involving 20 grams or less of cannabis. Senate Bill 472 now before the House Finance Committee, where it has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. If passed by the House Finance Committee, the measure would still need to be voted by the full House and then it would return to the Senate before going to the Governor’s desk. You can read NORML’s testimony in support of this measure here. Hawaii voters who wish to learn more about this effort can visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here or visit the ACLU of Hawaii here.

    Maryland lawmakers this week passed Senate Bill 297 by a vote of 30 to 16. The bill now goes before House lawmakers for further consideration. This is the first time in recent memory that a chamber of the Maryland legislature has voted to significantly reduce penalties for the non-medical use of cannabis. Presently, the possession of ten grams of cannabis or less is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, publishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Senate Bill 297 makes minor marijuana offenses a fine-only, non-criminal infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $100. Members of the House Judiciary Committee will hear SB 297 on Thursday, March 28, at 1pm. NORML will be testifying at this hearing. Maryland residents are urged to get involved in supporting SB 297 by clicking here.

    Yesterday, New Hampshire House members voted 214 to 115 in favor of amended legislation, House Bill 621, that decriminalizes minor marijuana possession offenses. Under present law, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor publishable by up to one-year in jail and a $2,000 fine. This proposal seeks to make minor marijuana offenses (up to one-quarter of one ounce) a fine-only, non-criminal infraction. The vote marks the fourth time in five years that House lawmakers have approved decriminalizing cannabis. More than 50 additional House lawmakers approved the measure this year as opposed to last year. Nevertheless, this measure is anticipated to face resistance in the Senate as well as from newly elected Gov. Maggie Hassan. If you reside in New Hampshire, you can take action in support of HB 621 here.

    Assembly Bill 1465, which reduces penalties for the adult possession of up to 15 grams or less of marijuana to a fine-only, non-criminal violation was approved last year by the New Jersey Assembly and awaits action by the Senate. Separate Senate Legislation, Senate Bill 1977, to decriminalize up to 50 grams of marijuana also remains pending. Under present state law, the possessing of up to 50 grams marijuana is punishable by up to 6 months incarceration, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record. According to survey data compiled in 2011 by Rutgers University, a majority of New Jersey voters support reforming the state’s criminal marijuana laws. Pollsters found that 6 out of 10 voters favored removing criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenders and replacing them with the imposition of a civil fine. Just over half thought there should be no penalties at all. More information about these measures is available here.

    To date, fifteen states have reduced marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. In nine of these states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island (beginning April 1, 2013) — the law defines the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults as a civil, non-criminal offense. Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana, while Colorado and Washington recently imposed separate legislation legalizing the private possession of marijuana.

    Several additional states, including Missouri and Vermont, are considering similar decriminalization measures. Nearly a dozen states are also considering legislation to legalize the adult consumption of marijuana and regulate its retail production and sale. A summary of state-by-state pending marijuana law reform measures is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

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