CMMNJ is encouraged by Sen. Nick Scutari's bold introduction of a bill for full legalization of cannabis for adult use in New Jersey. We also recognize the efforts of Asm. Reed Gusciora and Asm Michael Patrick Carroll with their bills to reform New Jersey's laws regarding adult social use of cannabis. CMMNJ supports legalization to help anyone who can benefit from cannabis to get safe, affordable access and to reduce the harms associated with prosecution and incarceration due to outdated drug laws. However, we believe the current bill does not go far enough to correct the wrongs of cannabis prohibition. It does not go far enough to ensure safe, legal, affordable access to all who can benefit from cannabis therapy. It does not go far enough to ensure full participation in the cannabis industry by the people most harmed by unfair drug laws.
In our near decade of trying to expand and improve our compassionate use program under CUMMA, we have encountered many obstacles that cause needless suffering for patients and caregivers. We understand, for example, that removing home cultivation was a necessary step in order to get Governor Corzine to sign the bill into law. Let’s just say we have learned from those “missteps”, and we, CMMNJ, are not in the habit of being duped twice. We hope these same missteps will not be repeated under a legalization framework. In fact, we believe some of these problems can be corrected immediately by amending the current law:
· Eliminate the 7% tax on medical marijuana;
· Restore home cultivation that was called for in the original legislation (S119/A804) and approved by the New Jersey Senate in 2009; and,
· Reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule that acknowledges marijuana’s accepted medical uses in the United States, its safety profile, and its low addiction potential.
These changes to correct errors in the current law can be enacted immediately. These changes should also be carried forward into any plans for legalization to ensure fair and equitable access for all. Efforts to legalize cannabis in New Jersey must keep patients and caregivers in mind. Patients, especially pediatric patients and their caregivers, already face significant burdens to access and afford cannabis. Many who could benefit from cannabis are cruelly excluded due to the bureaucratic limitations that allow only certain conditions to "qualify" and impose additional costs on patients already struggling with affording their medical bills. Legalization holds promise to improve our medical program if implemented responsibly and compassionately.