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New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Changes to Medical Marijuana Laws

Legislators in New Jersey have made recent news by calling out problems in state medical marijuana laws. Despite Governor Chris Christie’s strong opposition to expanding medical marijuana programs, lawmakers argue that current laws are too restrictive and negatively impact patients.

Right now the New Jersey medical marijuana program serves approximately 2,300 patients, but many patients are unable to receive coverage because their diseases are not recognized by the state. Conditions not covered include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, hepatitis and other conditions associated with severe and chronic pain.

Critics of the program argue that it fails patients because many patients who use cannabis medically risk losing their jobs due to failing drug tests, despite the expansion of legalized marijuana use. Now, a new bill sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan would address that issue as well as make it legal for patients to grow their own cannabis — a move he argues would save patients money.

Other notable provisions of the proposed bill include increasing the number of dispensaries allowed to conduct business under state supervision, eliminating the sales tax on marijuana and creating more stringent tests to check the potency and chemical composition of medical cannabis.

While New Jersey recognizes the right to use medical marijuana with a valid prescription, it has not yet expanded its laws to include recreational use. Individuals without a medical prescription who are caught in possession of any amount of marijuana still face criminal penalties, including fines and possible jail time. These penalties range in severity from $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail to $300,000 in fines and up to 20 years behind bars. New Jersey maintains minimum sentences, which require that those convicted of drug crimes pay minimum fines and serve prescribed sentences without the possibility of parole.

You have a right to defend yourself against possession of marijuana or any other drug charge, and you have a right to attorney representation throughout your case. If you’ve been arrested, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.