Tuesday, June 13, 2017

S3195: Legislation to Legalize Marijuana in New Jersey, and CMMNJ's Proposed Amendments to the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act



The Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. (CMMNJ) is pleased to learn that Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) introduced S3195, legislation to tax, regulate and legalize marijuana for adults in New Jersey on May 15, 2017 at the State House in Trenton. CMMNJ recognizes the failure of the current policy of marijuana prohibition, the harm to society that marijuana prohibition causes, and the disproportionate racial impact of this policy. Colorado has demonstrated that there are many financial and social benefits that can be anticipated from legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana for adults.
CMMNJ endorsed legalization of marijuana in New Jersey in January 2014.*

CMMNJ believes that ending cannabis prohibition is the best way to get the right medicine to the most people. The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) passed into law in January 2010, yet only about 11,000 patients have received ID cards from the Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP), in a state with almost nine million people. Hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey could benefit from marijuana therapy—perhaps a million or more. Garden State residents have a one in three chance of a cancer diagnosis and a one in three chance of chronic pain at some time in their lives. Moreover, we all die, and marijuana can help with some of the typical symptoms associated with terminal illness better than any other drug. Legalizing marijuana for adults would make it more like an over-the-counter drug, and less like a prescription drug, that is now prohibitively expensive for so many patients in the state. S3195 will make medical marijuana like aspirin--a drug you can buy in a local store, without going to a doctor every couple of months for a recommendation, or having to go to one of only five Alternative Treatment Centers in the state to pick it up.

Along with endorsing S3195, CMMNJ calls for immediate amendments to the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act to:
  • Eliminate the 7% tax on medical marijuana;
  • Restore home cultivation (“six plants” per qualified patient) that was called for in the original legislation (S119/A804**) and approved by the New Jersey Senate in February 2009; 
  • Recognize out-of-state medical marijuana ID cards (also in S119/A804) now that 29 states and Washington, D.C. have these programs; 
  • Expand the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana to include the original language in S119/A804, along with the 43 petitions to add qualifying conditions that were given initial approval by the Department of Health Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel last month; 
  • Allow any licensed physician or Advanced Practice Nurse with a current CDS certificate and a practice in the state to recommend medical marijuana for New Jersey patients; and,
  • Reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule that acknowledges marijuana’s accepted medical uses in the United States, its safety profile, and its low addiction potential.
CMMNJ has concerns about the prohibition of outdoor marijuana smoking in S3195. We believe that this prohibition will not affect patients currently in the MMP, since, according to S3195, “Nothing in…this bill shall be construed: a. to limit any privileges or rights of a medical marijuana patient…as provided in the ‘New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act’ P.L. 2009, c.307 (C.24:61-1 et. seq.)” CMMNJ takes this to mean that patients in the MMP can still smoke marijuana outdoors, essentially anywhere cigarettes can be smoked. However, forbidding “recreational” marijuana smoking outdoors discriminates against and penalizes the homeless, who have no private chambers that they can retreat to when they want to use legal marijuana.  Some of these homeless people are patients who don’t qualify for an MMP ID card because they have no address to give to the DOH, nor the money for MD evaluations. In order for them to use marijuana as medicine, they must break the law.  This is terribly unfair, and another example of punishing people for being poor.  It is also unfair to patients who live in Section 8 Housing, or in other subsidized housing, who will be evicted if they are found smoking marijuana in their rooms or apartments. The prohibition on the public use of marijuana means these residents can legally use marijuana, except not in their homes, and not outside their homes either. Additionally, outdoor, or public smoking of marijuana should be allowed for health or safety reasons. If adults are forced to smoke indoors, they may be exposing to smoke vulnerable members of the household—infants or young children, or the frail elderly, or those using home oxygen systems.  Marijuana smoking should be permitted anywhere that cigarette smoking is permitted.

Finally, CMMNJ endorses a system of affirmative action in the newly emerging legal marijuana industry for the communities that have been most devastated by the decades-long war on marijuana—the inner cities. The legal marijuana industry will provide ample new employment opportunities. Minority residents in the inner cities must not be excluded from this emerging industry, but instead should be given preference in this industry, at least in terms of opportunities in the inner cities.

CMMNJ is grateful for the leadership shown by Senator Scutari in introducing S3195, and we trust our concerns will be addressed.

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ  08618 
www.cmmnj.org   ohamkrw@aol.com 609.394.2137


* “Opinion: N.J. should legalize, tax and regulate marijuana,” Wolski, K., The Times of Trenton, 1/24/14. http://www.nj.com/times-opinion/index.ssf/2014/01/opinion_nj_should_legalize_tax.html#incart_river_default

** SENATE, No. 119, Establishes "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act." http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/S0500/119_R1.HTM


CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, provides education about the benefits of medical marijuana.


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