More than two-thirds of New Jersey constituents voted for a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis in the Garden State. The amendment goes into effect on January 1, 2021 but it is up to the legislature to develop rules of implementation. Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since the 2010 passage of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Read on to find out what you need to know about New Jersey’s medical and impending recreational weed laws.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
Patients with one of the following diagnoses may be eligible to participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Chronic Pain
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease
- Intractable skeletal spasticity
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Opioid Use Disorder
- Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Seizure disorder, including epilepsy
- Terminal illness with prognosis of less than 12 months to live
- Tourette Syndrome
Patients must receive a diagnosis from a state-registered physician to participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in New Jersey
The first step to obtaining a medical marijuana card in New Jersey is scheduling an appointment with a physician who is registered with the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP). Only MMP-registered doctors may provide you the certification you need to register with the state as a medical marijuana patient. If your physician is not registered with the program, you can ask them to do so or you can use the state’s directory to find a qualifying physician. Once you’ve met with your doctor, you can begin the registration process on the MMP website. You will need a recent photograph, government issued ID, and proof of New Jersey residency to complete the application. If applicable, you will also need proof of enrollment in a government assistance program to be eligible for a discount on your application fee. If you would like to select a caregiver, you will need to download the caregiver criminal background check form and ask your caregiver to complete it. They are responsible for following the instructions attached to the form. To complete the caregiver section on your application, you will need to provide your caregiver’s photograph, government issued ID, and proof of residency. The cost of registration is $100. However, if you are enrolled in one of the following programs, you may pay the discounted rate of $20:
- Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- NJ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- NJ Medicaid
- NJ Temporary Disability Benefits
Applicants who are aged 65 and older, military veterans, and minor patients whose legal guardians are enrolled in one of the government assistance programs mentioned above are also eligible to pay the discounted application fee of $20. A medical marijuana card in New Jersey authorizes patients to purchase and consume cannabis for medical use, but patients are still required to comply with their employers’ drug use policies and may not smoke cannabis publicly or while operating a vehicle.
Where Can I Get Medical Marijuana?
It is illegal for New Jersey medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis. The only place to legally purchase weed is from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary known as an alternative treatment center. There are currently nine licensed alternative treatment centers in New Jersey:
- Columbia Care
- Compassionate Care Foundation, Inc. (The Botanist)
- Greenleaf Compassion Center
- Garden State Dispensary
- Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center
- Harmony Dispensary
- Curaleaf NJ, Inc
- Zen Leaf
You can find the locations of these alternative treatment centers on the Division of Medicinal Marijuana’s online dispensary directory. Patients are allowed to purchase up to three ounces of cannabis in a 30-day period unless the patient is terminal. Terminal patients are authorized to purchase an unlimited amount of cannabis. A patient’s doctor will determine the proper dosage.
Recreational Cannabis in New Jersey
On November 3, 66% of New Jersey voters approved a referendum to legalize cannabis, initiating New Jersey’s process of establishing a regulated adult-use industry. The referendum made an amendment to the constitution, but New Jersey’s legislature is still responsible for creating legislation authorizing the use of recreational weed. The text of the constitutional amendment allows adults aged 21 and over to grow, cultivate, process, manufacture, prepare, package, transfer, and sell cannabis according to regulations overseen by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The constitutional amendment goes into effect on January 1, 2021. The New Jersey legislature has until then to develop regulations guiding the implementation of the amendment to avoid a scenario in which weed possession is legal, but there is no legal route to get it. On November 5, New Jersey senators introduced S21, the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act.” If this bill is passed, adults aged 21 and over would be legally allowed to do the following in New Jersey:
- Possess up to one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of cannabis concentrates
- Transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another legally aged adult without renumeration of any kind
- Consume cannabis by any delivery method as long as consumption occurs in a private residence or a designated cannabis consumption area
Home grows would still be unauthorized and landlords and property owners would be able to prohibit cannabis consumption on their properties. Legislators also introduced S2535, legislation that would enact the following cannabis decriminalization measures:
- Odor would no longer be an acceptable reason for police to conduct a search for cannabis
- Possession of up to six ounces of cannabis or up to 170 grams of cannabis concentrates would be entirely decriminalized
- Punishment for the distribution of up to one ounce of cannabis or five grams of concentrates would be reduced to a $50 civil penalty
These bills have not been passed and legislators continue to grapple with and amend the text, particularly surrounding their provisions for social justice, taxation, and home cultivation.