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Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. 'Hemp' is the fiber and seed part of the Cannabis plant, in contrast to the flower part of the plant which is 'legally considered' marijuana. The seeds of the marijuana plant contain the mind-altering chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol ('THC') and other similar compounds. THC can bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, stimulating the release of dopamine which creates a sense of euphoria and relaxation. Marijuana's effectiveness as a pain reliever, while lacking conclusive studies, is also supported by anecdotal accounts of users which has led to broad legalization for its medicinal use.
New Jersey is currently debating the scope of legalizing marijuana for recreational uses. (See, Senate Bill 2703; “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act”). Since allowing marijuana to be prescribed for specific medical conditions in 2010, the state government under the administration of Governor Philip Murphy, which took office in January 2018, has expanded the scope of allowed medical uses, adding such conditions as anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders and chronic visceral pain. The state also is expanding the number of retail medical marijuana dispensaries from six to 12, with the six new dispensaries selected from 146 applications announced in December 2018 (see below).
In addition to its consideration of proposals to allow recreational use, the state legislature is also evaluating bills to expunge past convictions for minor possession offenses. (See e.g. With over 30,000 marijuana possession arrests each year, New Jersey has the highest arrest rate in the nation by local police departments, some of which report that more than a third of their total arrests within their jurisdiction were for marijuana.
Some county and local governments, however, have expressed their opposition to allowing the sale or use of legal marijuana within their jurisdictions.
* NJ is moving toward legal weed, but more than 50 towns have voted to ban it, 12/11/2018, NJ.com
-- History and regulation
Hemp fiber has been used for centuries to make rope, paper, canvas and clothing. Commencing soon after settlement of the American colonies, hemp production was encouraged--or indeed mandated--as illustrated by a 1619 Virginia law requiring every farmer to grow hemp. And in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, hemp was recognized as legal tender in the exchange of goods.
Domestic production flourished until after the Civil War, when imports and other domestic materials replaced hemp for many purposes. In the late nineteenth century, as the practical applications of hemp declined, marijuana became a popular ingredient in many medicinal products, including elixirs and potions, and was sold openly in public pharmacies.
After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants to the U.S., introduced more widespread recreational use of marijuana. The drug became associated with the immigrants, along with the prejudice against the Spanish-speaking newcomers held by prior residents of the areas in which they settled. Anti-drug campaigners warned against what they saw as the encroaching "Marijuana Menace," and attributed terrible crimes caused by marijuana and the Mexicans who used it.
Efforts to restrict marijuana use began in the early years of the twentieth century as individual states began to enact laws on the 'sale of poisons' to mandate improved disclosure and labeling of potions, pills and other goods sold as medicinal or health products. Although these laws were primarily intended to limit the distribution of such products as arsenic and opium, some of the laws also specifically mentioned cannabis among the restricted 'poisons.' The federal Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required that certain special drugs, including cannabis, be accurately labeled with their contents. The 1906 law later was updated by Congress to become the Pure Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 which remains in effect today, creating the framework for regulating prescription and non-prescription drugs and foods, along with establishing the new enforcing agency as the Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana remains under this law defined as a 'dangerous drug.'
By the mid-1930s cannabis also was regulated as a drug in every state, including 35 states that adopted the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry J. Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, supported a nationwide media campaign promoting adoption of the Act by the states, which included claims that marijuana caused temporary insanity, illustrated by advertisements depicting young people smoking marijuana and then behaving recklessly, committing crimes, killing themselves and others, or dying from marijuana use.
In 1936, the propaganda film 'Reefer Madness' was made in an attempt to scare youth from using marijuana, stating that marijuana caused insanity and featuring a woman smoking marijuana, then laughing while a man who also had used marijuana beats a third person to death. Following the film's release, a series of Reefer Madness-inspired images, novels, songs, and movie posters were produced which featured explicit images of devilish creatures and seduced females depicting the wrecked lives of those who smoked marijuana. The national propaganda campaign contributed to the passage by Congress of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively criminalized marijuana, restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.
'Reefer Madness,' produced in 1936, one of a series of anti-marijuana films commissioned by the federal government.
-- Federal Controlled Substances Act and Anti-Drug Abuse Act
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) approved in 1970, cannabis was officially outlawed for any use, including medical treatment. The CSA provides for the periodic updating of schedules classifying drugs and delegates authority to the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to add, remove, or transfer substances to, from, or between schedules classifying five classes of 'controlled substances' with Schedule I drugs like marijuana prohibited from use as lacking 'a useful and legitimate medical purpose.' Other drugs, such as the common painkillers Adderall and Ritalin, are classified as Schedule II drugs.
The federal CSA and complementary state legislation also contributed to a surge in law enforcement actions targeted at drug offenders, with marijuana widely viewed as a 'gateway' leading to use of addictive drugs like amphetamines and heroin. Under New Jersey law, marijuana was included as a 'narcotic drug' under N.J.S.A. 24:18-4 which makes it unlawful for any person "to manufacture, possess, have under his control, sell, prescribe, administer, dispense or compound any narcotic drug.' The wide scope of local law enforcement in the state on marijuana was illustrated in the 1970 case of State v. Ward, 57 NJ 75, where a Vineland high school student without any prior arrests was arrested, convicted and sentenced to a two- to three-year prison term at Trenton State Prison for possession of a minimal amount of marijuana seeds in a pipe stem he had in his drawer in his bedroom dresser, a decision in which the New Jersey Supreme Court harshly criticized the severity of the trial judge's sentence and directed that in most cases future first-time marijuana possession offenders should be given probation--the first such judicial mandate in the nation.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, signed by President Reagan as a highlight of his wife Nancy's 'Just Say No' anti-drug campaign, reinstated mandatory prison sentences for illegal drug distribution, including large scale cannabis distribution; a subsequent amendment created a 'three-strikes' law, which set mandatory 25-year prison sentences for repeated serious crimes–including certain drug offenses–and allowed the death penalty to be used against 'drug kingpins.'
Several efforts through legislation or regulatory action to reschedule cannabis under the CSA have failed, and the US Supreme Court has ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, 532 US 543, (2001) and Gonzales v. Raich, 545 US 1, (2005) that the constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce supports the federal government's right under the CSA to regulate and criminalize cannabis, even for medical purposes. The Trump Administration also has rejected any administrative effort to reclassify marijuana. In March 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared before a gathering of law enforcement officials that marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin, going on to say “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store.”
Despite the resistance to ease federal marijuana laws and regulation, 31 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, have legalized cannabis for treatment of specific medical conditions, and nine states and the District of Columbia had legalized the drug for recreational purposes. In the November 2018 election, voters in Michigan and North Dakota will decide whether to allow recreational use, while those in Missouri and Utah will decide on medical use. Governor Murphy and legislative leaders also have pledged to have New Jersey enact legalization legislation by 2019.
Thus, given the conflicts between federal and state laws, even where citizens are using cannabis in compliance with state law, those individuals and businesses involved in distribution and use may still be prosecuted by federal authorities for violating federal law. This situation has led to some businesses, particularly banks and credit card companies, to refrain from offering their services in marijuana transactions legal under state law, thus complicating transactions and forcing both legal buyers and sellers to resort to cash.
-- New Jersey medical marijuana program
New Jersey enacted legislation in January 2010--the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act--to allow the legal sale of marijuana for designated medicinal purposes. The bill was signed by Governor Jon Corzine shortly before he left office and was succeeded by Governor Chris Christie. The law does not allow patients to grow their own marijuana, but requires that the plant be acquired through "alternate treatment centers" licensed by the state, with caregivers for patients permitted to collect marijuana on behalf of the patient only after clearance though criminal background checks.
The new Christie administration sharply narrowed the scope of the legislation through adopting regulations criticized as preventing many potential users from participating, with the Governor describing medical marijuana programs as "a front for legalization." Among other things, the rules limited the scope of the illnesses and conditions authorized for prescriptions to terminal illness and other specified conditions; required proof of a prior physician-patient relationship for at least one year; mandated registration of both physicians and patients; imposed a $200 two-year registration fee each for patients and caregivers designated to obtain marijuana in a patient's behalf; and required patients to visit physicians each month to maintain eligibility.
Shortly after taking office in January 2018, Governor Philip Murphy issued Executive Order No. 6 directing the state Department of Health to review the current policy with the goal of providing patients with “a greater opportunity to obtain medical marijuana.” In March, the Department expanded the scope of eligible conditions for treatment, including such problems as anxiety and migraine headaches. These and other reforms added 10,000 new patients to the medical marijuana program since Murphy took office in January, making the total number of New Jerseyans with prescriptions exceeding 34,000 as of fall 2018.
* Marijuana as Medicine, National Institute on Drug Abuse
Currently licensed dispensaries are
In December 2018, the state Department of Health announced that the six new licensed dispensaries chosen were:
* Marijuana as Medicine, National Institute on Drug Abuse
* Medical Marijuana FAQ, WebMD.com
-- Law enforcement
Despite the expansion of legalization, marijuana prosecutions in the US rose for the second consecutive year in 2017, according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, with nearly 660,000 arrests during the year. Overall, total marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.
New Jersey had 32,279 marijuana possession arrests in 2016, which exceeds the number of arrests for murder, rape, assault or any type of theft, according to the FBI's Uniform Criminal Reporting program data. Only Texas and New York arrested more people for marijuana crimes in 2016, and the state's marijuana arrests also are increasing at a faster rate than any other state. From 2015 to 2016, marijuana arrests rose nearly 27%, from 28,148 to 35,700 arrests, with Arkansas following at nearly a 22% growth in arrests, with most other states reporting much lower increases and 19 states seeing a drop in marijuana arrests in 2016.
Since 2007, the number of marijuana arrests in New Jersey have increased by nearly 60%. New Jersey State Police officers made 2,908 arrests in 2016, while police at New Jersey colleges and universities made 602 marijuana possession arrests, led by Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Racial disparities in marijuana arrests, convictions and incarcerations have also sparked controversy. More than one-third--36%--of the marijuana possession arrests in the state in 2016 were of African-Americans, although blacks comprise just 13% of New Jersey's population.
Among pending marijuana reform legislation, some legislators have proposed that new laws also include expunging prior convictions for minor marijuana crimes from criminal records if marijuana is either decriminalized or fully legalized.(See, e.g., Assembly Bill Number 1557; Legalizes marijuana and provides for records expungement for certain past offenses; treats marijuana products similar to tobacco products, including use of civil penalties for providing marijuana to persons under 21).
* New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act
* Medical Marijuana Program, New Jersey Department of Health
* MMP Directory (dispensary directory with available strains)
* NJ Physicians Licensed for Marijuana Prescriptions, NJ Department of Health
* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Department of Health & Human Services
* The Cannalysts (financial and qualitative analysis of cannabis industry)
* NJCannabisInsider.com (weekly subscription service published by NJAdvance.com)
* NJCannabismedia.com (founded by Tom Curtin, former publisher of NJBIZ and Marc Schwarz, former Features Editor at The Record, tracks business developments and news relating to NJ marijuana subjects, plans to publish annual magazine Cannabis: Growing an Industry in the Garden State)
* New Jersey Marijuana Legalization News, NJlegalize.me
* Marijuana Business Daily
* Leafly.com (marijuana news, products, directories)
* . Marijuana Weekly (marijuana news
* Cannabiz Media (business networking and investing in North America)
* Marijuana Moment (global news)
* The Cannalysts (financial and qualitative analysis of cannabis industry around world)
* NORML (National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)
* NORML New Jersey (state chapter of national association)
* New Jersey CanaBusiness Association
* New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association
* Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey