On April 20th in Camden, New Jersey, pro-marijuana activists will launch one of the largest cannabis demonstrations seen in New Jersey thus far. During the demonstration, protestors are expected to assemble and smoke marijuana in protest of what they consider to be New Jersey’s draconian marijuana possession laws—which are among some of the toughest in the northeast. The protestors hope that the visual display of public marijuana consumption will help the public understand that marijuana users aren’t criminals, but are ordinary law-abiding citizens. If you have been charged with possession in the state of New Jersey visit www.ericmarklaw.com and schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney.
Activists supporting the decriminalization and legalization of recreational marijuana use in New Jersey cite Colorado as a prime example of the benefits of making marijuana legal. Colorado brought in $44 million in taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana. This doesn’t count the savings the state will have in paying for prosecutors, public defenders, and police. According to New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, legalizing pot can save taxpayers up to $127 million in government expenses.
Yet, these demonstrations aren’t likely to lead to decriminalization in the state—at least as long as Governor Chris Christie is in power. The governor has consistently opposed marijuana de-criminalization in the state. While New Jersey supports the use of medical marijuana, this measure was not passed when Christie was in office, and Christie has expressed his opposition to the medical marijuana laws in the state.
While other states in the area have relaxed their marijuana laws by decriminalizing recreational use of the drug, New Jersey continues to criminalize possession. According to Norml, possession of less than 50 grams can result in 6 months’ incarceration and a maximum fine of up to $1,000. Being in possession of more than 50 grams of the drug is a felony, punishable with up to 1.5 years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000. Sale of marijuana is a felony in New Jersey. Individuals who sell one ounce of the drug face incarceration up to 1.5 years and a $25,000 fine. And, the penalties just go up from there. The more a person sells, the more jail time a person faces. Sale of 25 pounds or more of the drug can lead to up to 20 years in jail and a fine up to $150,000.
To make matters more complicated, critics of the possession laws claim that these laws disproportionately target African American offenders. New Jersey is one state that doesn’t release demographic data on its arrests and convictions, so there is little transparency regarding who is being arrested for possession and who is receiving the most serious sentencing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at close to three times the rate of whites in 2010. Critics claim that prosecuting marijuana possession is a waste of tax payer dollars and police resources.
According to the Courier Post, 21,000 individuals in New Jersey got arrested for possession or sale of the drug. This makes New Jersey the fourth highest ranking state for marijuana arrests in the northeast.
While medical marijuana use is legal in the state, only 350 of New Jersey’s 21,000 doctors have registered to write prescriptions. And, access for citizens with prescriptions is difficult.
One Camden county youth who suffers from epilepsy saw incredible gains once she began to consume marijuana oil. Before taking marijuana, she suffered several hundred seizures a day. Now she suffers a seizure every few weeks. Her parents told the Courier Post that current medical marijuana laws require them to mix oils at home, essentially asking that they act as pharmacists for their daughter. The parents have considered moving to states where medical marijuana laws are less restrictive and where access to dispensaries is greater.
Despite the fact that many states have legalized marijuana for medical uses, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug under federal regulations. Schedule 1 drugs are considered among the most dangerous, with no known medical uses. This designation contradicts laws across the country that allow for the use of medical marijuana. Because of the federal designation, it is more difficult for researchers to study marijuana for potential medical side-effects and benefits. And, for parents treating their children’s seizures at home using medical marijuana, for many, it’s a trial and error experiment.
Currently, in order to receive treatment using medical marijuana, patients must have a bona fide relationship with a physician, be a New Jersey resident, and be diagnosed with a medical condition approved for treatment using medical marijuana. The government of New Jersey provides a list of conditions which include terminal cancer, Crohn’s disease, and other terminal illnesses. Untreatable epilepsy also falls under the acceptable uses of medical marijuana in New Jersey.
And, according to NJ.com, PTSD was recently approved to qualify as a condition approved for medical marijuana treatment by the state assembly.
Doctors remain divided on medical marijuana use, with many explaining that the drug needs more research. Citizens also remain divided, with half in the state supporting the legalization of marijuana and the other half opposing legalization.
Until decriminalization occurs, marijuana users may continue to face jail time and require criminal defense if charged with marijuana possession or sale. Call the Law Office of Eric M Mark at 973-453-2009 today.