The State of New Jersey Marijuana Legalization
July 9th, 2019
Policy, State Marijuana Laws
New Jersey has nearly 50,000 medical marijuana patients and out-of-state patients may legally bring their marijuana into the state for up to six months. With nearly nine million residents, the state is the 11th largest in the United States and the most densely populated state with more than 1,200 people per square mile, making it a leading cannabis market.
Let’s take a look at the state’s recreational and medical marijuana programs.
Recreational Marijuana Set for 2020
New Jersey decided to pause its efforts to legalize recreational cannabis in May 2019 after failing to secure enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill — a move that spurred a similar move in New York. Lawmakers instead plan to put the measure to vote during the 2020 general election in a move that would mirror that of many other states.
Illinois is one of the few states that passed cannabis legalization through legislative means rather than a ballot measure. New York and New Jersey hoped to do the same but could not reach a consensus on the bills. The 2020 ballot initiative would involve voters actively instructing lawmakers to pass cannabis legalization measures.
During the 2019 session, lawmakers still plan to move forward with bills designed to expand its medical cannabis program and expunge existing marijuana convictions. These social justice and medical initiatives could pave the way for recreational legalization by establishing the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will ultimately regulate both markets.
Improved Medical Marijuana Program
New Jersey has made a medical marijuana program in place for the past ten years, but the passage of the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Marijuana Act in May 2019 introduced some big changes. Lawmakers believe that the new program could create a ‘national model’ for medical marijuana by introducing major changes to the entire process.
Doctors were the biggest bottleneck with the old regulations. Many doctors fear the the federal government would target them while the drug remains illegal on a federal level. At the same time, the state suspended the license of many prominent medical marijuana doctors in the state, saying that they didn’t maintain a “bona fide” relationships with patients.
The new law will remove the “bona fide” requirement, which means that doctors could recommend medical marijuana on a patient’s first visit, as long as they examine the patient, diagnose the issue and feel confident that medical marijuana would address the underlying issue. Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal has also campaigned to sign up more doctors.
Where to Find Dispensaries
New Jersey has several medical marijuana dispensaries located near major population centers and more dispensaries are expected to open over the coming months.
In June, the Department of Health announced their intent to license over 100 Alternative Treatment Centers with up to half of the new facilities operating as a dispensary and the others operating as cultivators and manufacturers.
The six existing medical marijuana dispensaries include:
- Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center (Cranbury)
- Compassionate Care Foundation (Egg Harbor)
- Curaleaf NJ (Bellmawr)
- Garden State Dispensary (Woodbridge)
- Greenleaf Compassion Center (Montclair)
- Harmony Dispensary (Secaucus)
Six more dispensaries were approved by the Department of Health last year, but they have been delayed by unsuccessful applicants that are suing in court. The newly created Cannabis Regulatory Commission will also be required to issue permits to at least two more dispensaries located in the northern and southern parts of the stat over the next year.
New Jersey’s new social media and medical marijuana reforms could make cannabis much more affordable for patients and decriminalize the drug. In 2020, voters will be looking forward to a ballot measure that could finally tip the scales and bring recreational legalization to the state following what’s sure to be a hotly contested general election.
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