Cannabis in New Jersey

Cannabis in New Jersey is illegal and criminalized for recreational use, but permitted for medical use.


In 2013, New Jersey police made 24,765 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013, the highest in two decades. The number of 2013 arrests was double that in 1993, when the state's population was smaller. The spike in arrest rates was at odds with the national trend, beginning in 2007, that saw a decline in arrests for marijuana possession.[1]

The maximum penalty for simple possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana is six months in jail and a fine.[1] Few first-time offenders serve jail time.[1]

Marijuana reform advocacy

New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform is an advocacy coalition of "religious, civil rights, law enforcement and medical leaders" who support legalization of marijuana in the state.[2]

A report by New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform and New Jersey Policy Perspective, issued in 2016, concluded that if New Jersey legalized marijuana, it could generate about $300 million a year in sales tax revenue for the state. (The report assumed a sales tax of 25% and annual in-state marijuana sales of $1.2 billion.)[3]

Robert Edward "Ed" Forchion Jr.known as "NJ Weedman"has been described by as "one of New Jersey's best known marijuana legalization advocates."[4] Since the 1990s, Forchion has agitated for marijuana-law reform in the state.[4] A perennial candidate for public office, Forchion lost a bid in 2004 to legally change his name to "NJ Weedman" after prosecutors intervened.[4] Forchion has been convicted of violating New Jersey's marijuana laws several times;[4] in 2015, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, affirmed one of his convictions, rejecting Forchion's contention that the criminalization of marijuana violated his constitutional rights under the state and federal constitutions.[5]

In 2015, Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics conducted a public opinion poll of New Jerseyans, asking whether they supported legalizing, taxing, and regulating the use of marijuana. Among respondents, 33% "strong supported" the idea, 26% "somewhat supported" the idea, 12% "somewhat opposed" the idea, and 27% "strongly opposed" the idea.[6]

Medical cannabis

On January 18, 2010, amidst a "flurry of bills" he signed on his final day in office, outgoing governor Jon Corzine signed into law S. 119, permitting the use of medical cannabis for persons with listed conditions: cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder, Lou Gerhig's disease, severe muscle spasms, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease and any terminal illness (defined as an illness for which a physician certifies that the patient will die within one year).[7] The law allows the New Jersey health department to create rules to add other illnesses to the list.[7] The law does not allow patients to grow their own marijuana; instead, the plant must be acquired through "alternate treatment centers" licensed by the state.[7] Caregivers for patients are permitted to collect marijuana on behalf of the patient, but the caregiver must be designated and cleared by a criminal background check.[7]

Enrollment in the medical marijuana program is small, which has been attributed to costs, the rigid limitations of the program, and "the small amount of doctors willing to recommend patients," as well as resistance to the program by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who in 2014 called the medical program a "front for legalization" of marijuana.[8] In 2011, New Jersey was described as having the strictest medical marijuana law among the 16 states that at the time permitted medical marijuana.[9]

In 2013, the parents of a two-year-old with Dravet's syndrome confronted New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who signed a bill allowing access for sick children to medical marijuana[10] in a controversy dubbed "pot for tots".[10][11][12]

As of 2015, 5,540 patients were registered as part of the program, along with 355 caregivers authorized to buy on behalf of ill patients.[13]

Under New Jersey's medical-marijuana law, up to a maximum of six alternate treatment centers receive contracts from the state. These centers, which must be nonprofit, have the exclusive right to produce and sell medical marijuana in New Jersey.[13][9] The first dispensary opened in December 2012 in Montclair.[14] By October 2015, four additional centers had opened, in Egg Harbor Township, Woodbridge, Bellmawr, and Cranbury.[13] A sixth applicant was undergoing background checks at that time.[13]

Christie has generally opposed efforts by advocates and legislators to add new illnesses to the list of qualifying conditions, but nevertheless in 2016 Christie signed into law a measure, sponsored by state Senator Joseph Vitale, that added post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of disorders making a patient eligible for the program.[15]


  1. 1 2 3 Jan Hefler, Bucking National Trend, New Jersey Is Arresting More People for Marijuana, Tribune News Service (November 23, 2015).
  2. Susan K. Livio, Why this election could help pave way for legal marijuana in N.J., nation, (November 3, 2016).
  3. Susan K. Livio, Legalizing marijuana would reap $300M a year in taxes for N.J., advocates say, (May 23, 2016).
  4. 1 2 3 4 Kevin Shea, NJ Weedman's long, strange trip as marijuana advocate, (April 30, 2016).
  5. MaryAnn Spoto, NJ Weedman taking marijuana conviction to high court, (August 8, 2015).
  6. Marijuana Legalization for Adults with Taxation and Regulation Supported by Most New Jerseyans: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Center for Public Interest Polling, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (June 18, 2015).
  7. 1 2 3 4 Claire Heininger (January 18, 2010). "N.J. medical marijuana law is signed by Gov. Corzine".
  8. Brent Johnson, Christie says medical marijuana programs are 'a front for legalization', (June 17, 2014).
  9. 1 2 Richard Pérez-Peña, Marijuana for Patients May Proceed, Christie Says, New Jersey Times (July 19, 2011).
  10. 1 2 Honan, Edith (8 Jan 2014), New York's medical marijuana law excludes some who seek the drug, Reuters, retrieved 2014-01-20
  11. Mother Investigated After Opting For Marijuana Over Chemotherapy, CBS Denver, 27 Sep 2013, retrieved 2014-01-16
  12. Jones, David (11 Sep 2013), New Jersey Governor Christie signs 'pot-for-tots' bill, Reuters, retrieved 2014-01-20
  13. 1 2 3 4 Susan K. Livio, N.J.'s 5th medical marijuana dispensary to open Thursday, (October 14, 2015).
  14. Anemona Hartocollis, First Ounces of Marijuana Leave a New Jersey Dispensary, New York Times (December 6, 2012).
  15. Susan K. Livio, Christie to let PTSD sufferers get medical marijuana, (September 14, 2016).

External links

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