New Jersey Wants Public To Weigh In On Reclassifying Pot

New Jersey Wants Public To Weigh In On Reclassifying Pot

By Kelly Burch 04/06/18

A court ruling gave the state power to reclassify marijuana even though the drug remains federally classified as Schedule I. 

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The federal government shows no signs of loosening restrictions on marijuana, but the state of New Jersey is considering reclassifying the drug, moving away from the Schedule I classification that designates cannabis as a substance that has no acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The state will hold public hearings on whether or not marijuana should be reclassified on April 19 and 24. 

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's office said in a statement that reclassifying the drug would not necessarily lead to legalization, but that it could affect the way that marijuana is regulated and the legal repercussions for people found to be in possession of pot.

The Division of Consumer Affairs is holding the public hearings after Judge Michael Guadagno ruled last year that the state does have the power to reclassify marijuana even if the federal government keeps cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a designation reserved for the most dangerous substances, including heroin and LSD.

In a statement, the Attorney General’s office said that the court ruling mentioned that the time is “certainly ripe” to reconsider marijuana classification in the state.

"Medical benefits from the use of marijuana not known in 1971, when the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act became effective... and impediments to its lawful use as a result of its Schedule 1 classification, are abundant and glaringly apparent now," Judge Guadagno wrote in his opinion, according to NJ.com.

Since New Jersey already has a medical marijuana program in place—and therefore seems to have decided that the drug does have some medical benefits—it seems prepared to remove the Schedule I classification. 

Expansion of medical marijuana in New Jersey and efforts to legalize marijuana in the state were blocked throughout recent years by Governor Chris Christie, who took a hardline stance on drugs, and vowed to appeal the court ruling on rescheduling marijuana.

However, Christie’s term ended this year and the state’s new Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, is in favor of legalization. Last week, Murphy announced an expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. 

“We are changing the restrictive culture of our medical marijuana program,” Murphy said, according to NBC10. “Some of these changes will take time, but we are committed to getting it done for all New Jersey residents who can be helped by access to medical marijuana.”

The public hearings on marijuana classification will be held April 19 at the Division of Consumer Affairs office, 124 Halsey Street, Newark; and on April 24 at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market Street, Trenton. The hearings will run from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  

Requests to speak must be submitted in writing to Maryann Sheehan, Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Division of Consumer Affairs, at PO Box 45027, Newark, NJ 07101 or electronically here no later than April 12.

People who do not register will be allowed to speak, time permitting. Members of the public can also submit written comments in lieu of testifying. This must also be done by April 12. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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