Effectively immediately, doctors in New Jersey can recommend their patients use medical marijuana to treat anxiety, various forms of chronic pain, migraines and Tourette’s syndrome.
The conditions have been added under the first stage of a wide-ranging expansion of the medicinal marijuana program announced Tuesday by Gov. Phil Murphy .
Patients will also pay less to register with the program, have more locations from which to buy their medicine, and encounter fewer bureaucratic obstacles when they enroll, Murphy said in a press conference in Trenton.
“Patients should be treated as patients, not criminals. We will be guided by science,” Murphy said. No more would patients be “failed by a system that has been prevented from delivering the compassionate care it promised nearly a decade ago.”
Murphy said former Gov. Chris Christie imposed a stigma on the program by making it hard for patients to qualify and cultivators to operate. Christie inherited what he called a bad law, and resisted most requests to expand the program, more than once calling them a back-door to outright legalization.
The immediate changes, contained in a 28-page report by Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, expands the list of medical conditions based on an advisory panel’s recommendation from October.
An audit of New Jersey’s limited medical marijuana program will recommend that Gov. Phil Murphy launch a massive expansion of the program, NJ Advance Media has learned.
The suggested changes would loosen the program’s requirements and add medical marijuana shops across the state, according to people with direct knowledge of the Department of Health report who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Those recommendations — to be unveiled Tuesday — align closely with Murphy’s main priority of overhauling medical marijuana in New Jersey: expanded access for patients. Murphy ordered a 60-day review of the state’s program in January after describing it as “constrained.”
Gov. Phil Murphy wants state lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana in New Jersey by the end of the year — despite a lack of widespread support from lawmakers in his own party.
Murphy has included $60 million in tax revenue from legal pot in his first state budget proposal, which he unveiled Tuesday.
“I am committed to working with you to get this passed this year,” the Democrat said in his budget address at the Statehouse in Trenton.
Murphy wants full legalization in New Jersey by January 2019 as lawmakers are still deep in the weeds over what that could entail
Governor Murphy is pushing ahead on marijuana legalization but has offered big promises and few details in his first budget speech.
The governor is calling for full legalization in New Jersey by January 1, 2019 but, with several competing bills stuck in the Legislature and multiple listening sessions scheduled for the coming months, Murphy’s plan seems optimistic.
In his first official budget address yesterday, the governor announced projected state revenues of $80 million from marijuana sales and taxation — $60 million from recreational use and $20 million from medical sales. The proposed tax rate would be 25 percent plus an additional 7 percent sales tax, bringing the total tax on recreational marijuana to 32 percent.
‘If you’re gonna do it, do it right,’ he says in rejecting decriminalization proposal
Samantha Marcus and Brent Johnson
For The Star-Ledger
Don’t expect New Jersey to decriminalize recreational marijuana instead of legalizing it. The state’s top lawmaker, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, said Monday that he’s opposed to a bill that would simply fine those caught with small amounts of pot, similar to traffic offenses.
“I really don’t have an interest in it,” Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told NJ Advance Media. “I don’t see it moving forward at this time. You’re basically legalizing something that’s not legal now. If you’re gonna do it, do it right. Regulate it and manage it properly.”
Politico New Jersey was the first to report on Sweeney’s stance.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has vowed to legalize marijuana to generate new tax revenue and cut down on incarceration, especially of minorities. Sweeney is also a proponent of legal weed.
But many Democrats and Republicans are either against or undecided on the idea. The decriminalization bill — sponsored by state Sens. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, and Robert Singer, R-Ocean — is a compromise from those who are opposed.
Under the measure, a person caught with less than 10 grams of cannabis would face a fine of $100 the first time, $200 for the second offense, and $500 for future violations.
Currently, offenders are subject to six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both.
State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said Monday he supports the measure “100 percent.”
“No one should be a convicted criminal and not be able to get a job because they had a small amount of marijuana,” Bramnick said.
But both the Senate and Assembly would have to approve decriminalization for it to move forward. And if Sweeney won’t post the bill, that means it won’t advance.
State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, said Monday the Republican caucus in the Legislature does not have a stance as a whole on legal pot.
But Singer suggested another avenue: Ask voters in a referendum whether to legalize pot.
“If they’re so assured this is a positive thing for the state of New Jersey, if they’re so assured that people want to do it, let’s put it on the ballot,” Singer said. “Let’s see it.
“They won’t do that, though,” he added. “They’re afraid of it.”
Asked if the Republican caucus is on board with a referendum, Kean said: “We’re going to look at that.”
Sweeney said he has to talk to state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, about whether a referendum is a good idea. Scutari is the main Senate sponsor of the legal marijuana bill.
“The only problem with a referendum is: If you make mistakes and you need to make changes, the only way you can make changes is through a referendum,” Sweeney said. “It makes it too rigid.”
“If you do it legislatively, you have the ability to move quickly to fix it,” he added.
Scutari did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
When New Jersey State Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a 62-page bill and primer on how to legalize marijuana almost one year ago, he chuckled when asked if it had a prayer of passing.
The legal sale of recreational marijuana had not yet begun in any other East Coast state, and yes, Chris Christie, the Republican governor at the time, had threatened a veto.
The bill, Scutari insisted, would give lawmakers time to digest and debate the issue so that a palatable package would be “ready for the next governor.”
Gov. Murphy, a Democrat who promised on the campaign trail that he would give legal pot the green light, is now in his third month in office. But no legalization bill has landed on his desk. None has even made it to the floor for debate, despite a Democratic majority in the Legislature and pledges from party leaders that this would be a priority.
“Many lawmakers are still undecided,” Scutari, a Democrat from Union County, said last week. In January, he predicted legalization would be approved by the spring, possibly the summer at the latest. But now he says it might take a little longer.
“Politicians are not known as a courageous bunch, and it’s a topic people want to get comfortable with. … After 90 years of indoctrination that this is a bad substance, we have to turn people around, educate them,” said Scutari, a municipal prosecutor who two years ago led a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers to Colorado, the first state in the nation to legalize, to see for themselves how it was working.
Hundreds of people came out to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on a chilly Newark evening in January to learn how they might be able to get a piece of New Jersey’s recreational marijuana industry.
No bill has been passed, so there is no recreational marijuana industry in New Jersey. Still, many attendees of the New Jersey Cannabis Symposium had green in their eyes as they heard about a new industry, one that offers more ways to make money than just from growing and selling marijuana.
This NJ Advance Media reporter recently went to Oregon and Washington to get a sense of different parts of the industry opportunities. According to a 2017 report from Leafly, Washington and Oregon had 22,952 and 11,295 full-time cannabis jobs, respectively.
Should New Jersey legalize recreational marijuana, thousands of jobs would follow, likely generating more than $1 billion in economic activity.
Here are some of those opportunities, starting with the obvious:
TRENTON — The first New Jersey legislative hearing on the legalization of marijuana held since Gov. Murphy took office — after he promised his support — unfolded Monday before more than 100 people.
More than a dozen experts traveled from as far as Colorado and Massachusetts to office advice on legalization, a topic gaining traction after Murphy, a Democrat, replaced Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican adamantly opposed to it, in January.
Several lawmakers are working on legalization bills, but none has come up for a vote and some legislators say they are trying to get a consensus.
Joe Danielsen, chairman of the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee, said he called the hearing because legalization is an issue “of great concern to the public.” He said the committee would be “starting with a blank slate” and listening to ideas from experts for and against, and from the public.
Danielsen, a Democrat, said he will hold three other hearings around the state. In South Jersey, a hearing is tentatively scheduled for April 21 at Rowan University.