In January 2010, New Jersey became the 14th state to enact a law allowing the sale of marijuana to ease the pain and suffering of chronically, seriously ill patients. The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was modeled after New Mexico’s medical use statute which allows registered patients to purchase small amounts of marijuana (two ounces per month) to cope with debilitating illnesses. Both states also allow for state-licensed “alternative care centers” to sell marijuana. New Mexico currently has five centers where people can legally buy pot. New Jersey plans to open six centers; two in each of the northern, central and southern regions of the state.
The Act called for the New Jersey Department of Health to create rules detailing how patients may apply for the program, what types of illnesses qualify for medicinal marijuana and what criteria will be used for licensing distribution centers, among other things. However, the Department has yet to create these regulations. Since the law was also supposed to go into effect six months after passage, Governor Chris Christie is asking lawmakers for an additional 90 days for the law to take effect.
Questions abound as to whether the law will leave people with serious medical conditions without relief, and whether the six centers initially licensed will be enough to meet demand. With many sick people unable to wait for the law to take effect or for the health department to outline rules, advocates fear that people will turn to buying marijuana illegally, which would inevitably lead to superfluous possession charges. Also at issue is how purchases will be taxed. While it took New Mexico two years to implement its law, people hope that New Jersey does not follow the same pattern.
Nevertheless, it appears as if New Jersey lawmakers want to distinguish the Act from those in California and Colorado, where marijuana use and sale laws are more liberal. Governor Christie, who is a former U.S. Attorney, says medicinal use in California is “completely out of control,” and has voiced concerns over potential loopholes in the bill.
If you have questions about the new law or have been charged with marijuana possession, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights and options.
Article provided by Iler Law Firm
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