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New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program – Not a Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card for Recreational Users

Whether you call it weed, pot, Mary Jane, grass, herb, or just plain old marijuana, it is no secret that the times – and the laws – are changing with respect to the usage of cannabis.

At least eight states have legalized cannabis for recreational usage, and about twice that number currently allow medical marijuana use. Thus, marijuana is now legal in about half of the states for one purpose or the other.

New Jersey Law with Respect to Medical Marijuana

Here, in New Jersey, only medical use of marijuana is currently legal. Under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, passed in 2010, the use of marijuana for medical purposes is heavily regulated by the State of New Jersey Department of Health. Prospective patients must be assessed by a physician registered under the program, and the physician must certify that the patient has an “approved debilitating medical condition.” These conditions include certain types of terminal cancer and other illnesses in which the patient has less than a year to live, along with other specified diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy.

In addition to the cost of the medical evaluation and the marijuana itself, patients and caregivers must pay a registration fee of $200 each, every two years. (Those on state or federal assistance may qualify for a reduced fee.) In addition, cannabis purchases are taxed at the rate of 7%. There are currently about 10,000 registered participants in the program. According to news reports, critics of the program believe that the program has been too slow in its roll-out process and should be expanded to include additional diseases for which traditional medicine has been of little assistance.

Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in New Jersey, as does medical usage that is not in compliance with the Medicinal Marijuana Program administered by the State. For example, it is illegal for a medical marijuana patient to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Additionally, patients are not allowed to smoke medicinal marijuana on public transportation, on school grounds, or in a public park.

Meanwhile, in Federal Court…

While the law with respect to marijuana usage has changed in New Jersey and many other states, it is important to note that this is not necessarily true at the federal level. The federal criminalization of cannabis began in the 1930s with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act, which was later replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. The latter Act criminalizes the possession, cultivation, distribution, and use of many controlled substances, including cannabis.

Under federal law, there is no universal distinction between medical and recreational use of marijuana, although there has been some movement discouraging federal prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges against those whose actions would be legal under their state’s law. In other words, even though medical marijuana use is “legal” in New Jersey, there remains at least a possibility of prosecution under federal law.

Talk to a Monmouth County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested or are facing an indictment, you need dependable legal advice. Knowledgeable Monmouth County marijuana crime attorney Tara Breslow-Testa works hard to stay abreast of the latest developments in the law in order to help her clients formulate an effective defense strategy. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case, call us at (732) 784-2880. We work with clients throughout the state of New Jersey, including Freehold, Red Bank, Seaside Heights, or Long Beach Island. The first consultation is free, and we can even help with bail bonds!

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