New Jersey Medical Marijuana Law

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New Jersey Medical Marijuana Law

nj marijuana dispensaryIn 1996, California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana through Proposition 215. However, it is glaring that, since then, the US has made enormous strides towards more marijuana-friendly laws. So, despite remaining a Schedule 1 drug and illegal at the federal level, marijuana has gotten legalized in 33 states for medical use and 11 states for recreational use.Against this backdrop, the state of New Jersey has also gone with the wave to legalize marijuana’s medical use. However, New Jersey’s legislation on medical marijuana came with so many restrictions that in 2011, the state was described in a New York Times article as having the strictest medical marijuana law among the 16 states that allowed medical marijuana at the time. This article thus seeks to assess in detail the present legal status of medical marijuana in New Jersey and observe the various changes that have been made over the years.

Despite being ill-famed as an abusive substance in modern history, the marijuana plant has been put to several uses by humans over centuries, with many of those uses being health-related. Many ancient cultures were said to have grown the plant as herbal medicine, starting from ancient Asia and spreading to other areas. While not being recognized as a ‘miracle plant,’ the health benefits of marijuana have also been acknowledged in modern history. A couple of scientific studies in the US have partly confirmed some of the medical uses associated with marijuana, such as seizure disorder, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorder, and so on. The FDA approved a marijuana-based drug for the treatment of some rare forms of childhood epilepsy. These associated health benefits have set the tone for the legalization of medical use of marijuana in several states, including New Jersey.

Historically a state that comes down very strongly on the use of marijuana, New Jersey, finally permitted the use of medical marijuana in 2010. This was when the then governor, Jon Corzine, signed the “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” into law. The enactment came after a series of campaigns by marijuana advocates and organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance. According to the law, for a patient to gain access to medical marijuana, such patient must have any of the listed conditions which include: seizure disorder, intractable skeletal, muscular spasticity, glaucoma, HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease and any terminal illness where the physician has determined a prognosis of fewer than 12 months of life.

nj marijuana dispensaryThe restrictive nature of the legislation’s conditions is partly offset by a provision that allows the New Jersey health department to add other conditions to the list. Under the legislation, the method of acquiring medical marijuana is strictly through state-licensed marijuana dispensaries called “alternative treatment centers,” responsible for cultivating and dispensing medical marijuana to patients. Also, patients with any of the listed conditions have to apply to the health department to become a qualified medical marijuana patient. They must also get a written certification from a licensed physician in the state to be able to buy medical marijuana.



While the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was indeed a significant step for New Jersey, its stringent rules made it very difficult for children to access medical marijuana. This was the case with 2-year-old Vivian in 2013, whose parents had a dramatic confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie over his delay in signing a bill that would make it easier for minors to participate the New Jersey’s medical program. Later in 2013, Gov. Christie signed the bill into law after the state legislature agreed to certain revisions. The bill, nicknamed “pot for tots,” gives children better access to the marijuana medication they might need to treat conditions such as seizure disorder. Marijuana-infused edibles were also allowed exclusively for minors.

In July 2019, the current New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, a firm supporter of marijuana legalization, signed into law the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act.” The new legislation contained provisions that drastically reformed New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) in various ways. The law aimed to give patients more access to medical marijuana by allowing physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize medical marijuana instead of only physicians. Other notable changes that were made include increasing the monthly limit of marijuana for patients from two to three ounces; extending authorization period from 90 days to one year; making edibles available for adults as opposed to only minors; phasing out the sales tax on medical marijuana; employment protections for medical marijuana patients; and compelling NJ marijuana dispensaries to post price lists on their websites.

Measures have been taken by the New Jersey Government to legalize marijuana in the state finally. However, the last attempt to do so did not pass, and the decision is now being left to voters on November 3 as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. If New Jersey voters decide to legalize marijuana, it would simply mean that marijuana companies would be able to sell marijuana for recreational uses. It also authorizes the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana. So, it might very well increase NJ marijuana dispensaries. Legalizing marijuana would likely positively affect the medical use of marijuana by allowing marijuana companies to introduce even more specialized strains of medical marijuana.

The trajectory of New Jersey’s movement towards a more marijuana-favorable stance is impressive, to say the least. The state has gone from one with sky-high numbers of arrests for cannabis-related offenses to one on the verge of being the first state in the Mid-Atlantic to legalize marijuana.

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