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New Jersey

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 5, 2012

    Members of the NORML Legal Committee filed suit yesterday against the State of New Jersey over regulators failure to implement the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act.

    First signed into law by former Gov. Jon Corzine on January 18, 2010, the law — which establishes the creation of up to six state-licensed ‘alternative treatment centers’ to provide medicinal cannabis to qualified patients — was initially scheduled to take effect in July 2010. Since that time state regulators, at the behest of present Gov. Chris Christie, have unduly delayed the law’s implementation. To date, not a single patient in New Jersey has been afforded legal protections under the Act in the 27 months since the measure was signed into law.

    On Wednesday, April 4, NORML Legal Committee attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick filed a lawsuit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.

    Read the press release below:

    CONSTITUTIONAL LAWSUIT FILED OVER FAILED NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM

    Trenton: Today a lawsuit was filed against the State of New Jersey over the failure to implement the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.

    Civil rights attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick brought the suit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana.

    The compassionate use law was passed in January 2010 with a six-month implementation timeline. But since 2010 a series of politically motivated regulatory, legislative and bureaucratic delays have kept the program from operating at all. None of the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers have been fully permitted by DHSS to open.

    “We represent a patient who suffered actual damages as a result of these delays,” said Anne Davis, “He cannot utilize the cannabis because New Jersey’s lack of a working program means he could lose his disability pension if he tested positive for cannabis.”

    Davis continued, “Our neighbors with AIDS, cancer, MS and the worst of medical conditions have testified before the legislature and changed the law. Now, patients and doctors have to go to court to win the rights that they should have already been afforded.”

    The lawsuit gathers more than two years of facts demonstrating that those in charge of the implementation process for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program have been unable or unwilling to put the law into place.

    “Today we are filing suit to require the DHHS to do what every other citizen must do — follow the law,” said William Buckman, “We are also insisting that pursuant to the legislature’s will, sick people have access to medical marijuana without fear of arrest.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 19, 2012

    January 2012 marks the beginning of a new legislative session in all 50 states. Already, marijuana law reform legislation is pending (or has been pre-filed) in nearly a dozen states. To keep up to date with what’s pending, and how you can support marijuana-friendly reform measures in your state, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    You can also stay abreast of 2012 statewide ballot initiative efforts, such as those ongoing in Colorado and elsewhere, via NORML’s Legalize 2012 Facebook page here.

    Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — where we spotlight specific examples of pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

    ARIZONA: Legislation has been reintroduced to defelonize marijuana possession penalties in Arizona. House Bill 2044 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a potential felony (punishable by 1.5 years in prison and a $150,000 fine) to a “petty offense” punishable by no more than a $500 fine. You can contact your state House member in support of this measure here.

    CALIFORNIA: State lawmakers have until January 27 to act on a pair of 2011 marijuana reform measures. Assembly Bill 1017 would reduce penalties for marijuana cultivation from a mandatory felony to a “wobbler” or optional misdemeanor. Senate Bill 129 makes it unlawful “for an employer to discriminate against” persons who are authorized under state law to use medical cannabis. You can learn more about these important measures by visiting the California NORML website here. You can read my testimony in favor of SB 129 here.

    INDIANA: For the first time in recent memory, legislation has been introduced to ‘decriminalize’ marijuana possession penalties in Indiana. Senate Bill 347 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to three ounces of marijuana is reduced from a potential felony (punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine) to a noncriminal infraction. Senate Bill 347 also amends Indiana’s traffic safety code to halt the prosecution of motorists who test positive for the presence of inactive marijuana metabolites in their urine (so-called zero tolerance per se legislation) but who do not otherwise manifest any other evidence of behavioral impairment. Indianans are strongly encouraged to contact their state Senators in support of SB 347 via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    NEW JERSEY: A coalition of lawmakers have pre-filed legislation for introduction in the 2012 session to significantly reduce penalties for those who possess personal use quantities of marijuana. Assembly Bill 1465 removes criminal penalties for the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana (presently punishable by up to six-months in prison and a $1,000 fine) and replaces them with civil penalties punishable by no more than a $150 fine. Additional information is available from NORML NJ here or via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    VIRGINIA: Legislation seeking to establish a joint study committee to investigate the fiscal impact of regulating the production and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over is before the Virginia House of Delegates. To learn more about House Joint Resolution 140, please visit Virginia NORML or consider contacting your state officials here.

    To be in contact with your state officials regarding these measures and other pending legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 31, 2011

    At Least 1 – 1.5 Million Americans are Legal Medical Marijuana Patients

    Market for these patients in sixteen states and D.C. estimated at between $2 – $6 billion annually

    MAY 31, 2011 – We don’t know his or her name, but somewhere in one of sixteen states and the District of Columbia is America’s 1,000,000th legal medical marijuana patient. We estimate the United States reached the million-patients mark sometime between the beginning of the year to when Arizona began issuing patient registry identification cards online in April 2011.

    [caption id="attachment_23836" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="16 states, the Capitol, and ONE MILLION legal marijuana users."][/caption]

    Between one to one-and-a-half million people are legally authorized by their state to use marijuana in the United States, according to data compiled by NORML from state medical marijuana registries and patient estimates.  Assuming usage of one-half to one gram of cannabis medicine per day per patient and an average retail price of $320 per ouncethese legal consumers represent a $2.3 to $6.2 billion dollar market annually.

    Based on state medical marijuana laws, the amounts of cannabis these legal marijuana users are entitled to possess means there is between 566 – 803 thousand pounds of legal usable cannabis allowed under state law in America.  These patients are allowed to cultivate between 17 – 24 million legal cannabis plants.  There may possibly be more, as California and New Mexico “limits” may be exceeded with doctor’s permission and some California counties explicitly allow greater amounts, so there may be as much as 1 million pounds of state-legal cannabis allowed under state law in America.

    Active Medical Marijuana State (Total population of sixteen medical marijuana states + D.C. = over 90 million.  D.C., Delaware, and New Jersey programs are not yet active.) # Legal Medical Marijuana Patients (% of state population)
    California (1996) – No central state registry, 2% – 3% of overall population estimate by Dale Gieringer at California NORML by comparing rates in Colorado & Montana. ~750,000 (2.00%)

    ~1,125,000 (3.00%)

    Washington (1998) – No registry, 1% – 1.5% of overall population estimate by Russ Belville at NORML by comparing rates in Oregon & Colorado. ~67,000 (1.00%)

    ~100,000 (1.50%)

    Oregon (1998) – Centralized state registry data published online. 39,774 (1.04%)
    Alaska (1998) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. 380 (0.05%)
    Maine (1999) – Centralized state registry data published online. 796 (0.06%)
    Nevada (2000) – 2008 figures from ProCon.org, awaiting return call from state for official number. 860 (0.03%)
    Hawaii (2000) – Estimate from Pam Lichty of Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii; program is run by law enforcement who are reluctant to release data. ~8,000 (0.59%)
    Colorado (2000) – Centralized state registry data published online. 123,890 (2.46%)
    Vermont (2004) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Vermont Criminal Information Center. 349 (0.06%)
    Montana (2004) – Centralized state registry data published online. 30,609 (3.09%)
    Rhode Island (2006) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,069 (0.29%)
    New Mexico (2007) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,615 (0.18%)
    Michigan (2008) – Centralized state registry data published online. 75,521 (0.76%)
    Arizona (2010) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,696 (0.06%)
    TOTAL US LEGAL MARIJUANA USERS ~1,100,000 (1.22%)

    ~1,500,000 (1.67%)

    Yet after fifteen years, one million patients, and a million pounds of legal marijuana, few if any of the dire predictions by opponents of medical marijuana have come to fruition.  Medical marijuana states like Oregon are experiencing their lowest-ever rates of workplace fatalities, injuries, and accidents.  States like Colorado are experiencing their lowest rates in three decades of fatal crashes per million miles driven.  In medical marijuana states for which we have data (through Michigan in 2008), use by minor teenagers is down in all but Maine and down by at least 10% in states with the greatest proportion of their population using medical cannabis. (more…)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 13, 2010

    Senate lawmakers voted 22 to 16 today in favor of a concurrent resolution that forces the Department of Health and Senior Services to revise draft regulations regarding the implementation of the New Jersey Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. Assembly lawmakers had previously approved the resolution in November.

    The Department now has 30 days to rewrite the regulations. (You can read NORML’s critique of the draft regulations here.) “Failure to publish proposed rules that are consistent with the intent of the legislature may result in the legislature passing a concurrent resolution to prohibit those proposed rules from taking effect in whole or in part,” the resolutions states.

    Lawmakers, patients, and reform activists took issue with several aspects of the draft regulations, which they argued violated the intent of New Jersey’s yet-to-be implemented medical marijuana law. These included provisions:

    * requiring qualifying patients to establish that their diagnosed condition has proven resistant to all other conventional therapies;

    * capping the number of state-licensed medical cannabis producers to no more than two;

    * restricting the varieties of marijuana available to patients to six strains, and capping the plant’s THC content at ten percent;

    * prohibiting the dissemination of any edible medical cannabis product;

    * mandating that doctors who authorize their patients to use marijuana must “make reasonable efforts” at least every three months to wean them off the drug.

    Earlier this month, Gov. Chris Christie — who has previously voiced disapproval of the state’s nascent medical cannabis law — agreed to allow for establishment of six licensed facilities to produce and dispense marijuana to authorized patients, and loosen the eligibility requirements for specific patients. The Senate’s vote today indicates that lawmakers will demand the administration to make additional changes regarding how the law is ultimately implemented.

    Chris Goldstein of New Jersey NORML and the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey said: “[We are] pleased that the New Jersey Legislature heard the concerns of severely ill residents in the continued fight for fair and legal access to marijuana. The vote today sends a strong message to the Department of Health and Senior Services as well as Governor Christie that officials need to craft more reasonable rules for the medical cannabis program. This can only be accomplished by engaging in a transparent process that involves patients and advocates.”

    For more information or to get involved, contact NORML New Jersey or the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 19, 2010

    [UPDATE! Earlier today, the New Jersey Assembly decided in favor of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 151 by a vote of 48 to 22. Unfortunately, Senate lawmakers did not act of Senate Concurrent Resolution 130, instead postponing a vote until at least December 9, 2010.

    This means that the DHSS’s (Dept. of Health & Senior Services) previously scheduled hearing for public input on the regulations will still take place as planned on Monday, December 6, 2010. DHSS’ press release regarding this hearing is below.

    “The Department will hold a public hearing on the proposed new rules between 10:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. on December 6, 2010 at the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, First Floor Auditorium, Health and Agriculture Building, 369 South Warren Street (at Market Street), Trenton, New Jersey 08608.

    The public has until January 14, 2011, to comment on the proposal. Persons wishing to comment on the proposal must submit their comments in writing by regular mail to Ruth Charbonneau, Director, Office of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Office of the Commissioner, NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, P O Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360. Written comments must be postmarked on or before January 14, 2011, which is the close of the 60-day public comment period. The Department will not accept telefacsimiles or electronic mail messages as official comments on the notice of proposal.”]

    New Jersey Senators are scheduled to vote this Monday, November 22, on a resolution to compel state health officials to revise proposed regulations for the state’s nascent medical cannabis program. Please contact your state Senator and urge them to vote ‘yes’ on SCR 130.

    Last month, New Jersey Department of Health officials released onerous draft regulations regarding the implementation of the state’s Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act, which was initially signed into law in January. The proposed rules violate the intent of the law by limiting the manufacture of medical cannabis to two licensed facilities, restricting the percentage of THC that may be present in the plant to no more than ten percent, and limiting the varieties of legally available cannabis to no more than three strains. They further demand that doctors who authorize their patients to use marijuana must “make reasonable efforts” at least every three months to wean them off the drug — a requirement that presently exists for no other controlled therapeutic substance.

    Several patient advocacy groups, including New Jersey NORML and the Coalition for Medical Marijuana — New Jersey, and lawmakers have criticized the proposed program as being unduly restrictive, and “not consistent with the intent of the legislature.” Various editorial boards, such as the New Jersey Star Ledger and the Asbury Park Press, have also opined against the proposed regulations.

    The Senate and Assembly resolutions, if approved by both chambers, would give state health officials 30 days to revise these unduly burdensome regulations.

    If you live in the Garden State, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center, and tell your member of the Assembly and Senate to affirm these votes by going here.

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