The Status of Medical Marijuana in New Jersey

The science behind the painkilling benefits of medical marijuana to those suffering from debilitating medical conditions is well established. As such, on January 18, 2010, Governor Jon Corzine signed into law the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“Compassionate Use Act“), making New Jersey the 14th state to permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Under the Compassionate Use Act, New Jersey residents suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses will be permitted to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription.

The law’s goal is to provide marijuana to the people who need it most: those suffering from terminal cancer, human immunodeficiency virus, chronic pain, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and to those suffering from terminal illnesses, among others. Patients will be able to access no more than two ounces of medical marijuana in any 30-day period.

Although the act does not restrict patients to using medicinal marijuana at home, it does place some limitations on where patients can use marijuana. Patients will not be able to use medical marijuana in “a school bus or other form of public transportation, in a private vehicle unless the vehicle is not in operation, on any school grounds, in any correctional facility, at any public park or beach, at any recreation center, or in any place where smoking is prohibited.” The act also mandates that patients cannot “operate, navigate or be in actual physical control of any vehicle, aircraft, railroad train, stationary heavy equipment or vessel while under the influence of marijuana.”

In New Jersey, possession of even a single joint for non-medical purposes is punishable by up to six months of incarceration and up to a $1,000 fine. Selling or giving away a prescription for medical marijuana to someone else would constitute a third-degree crime, which carries a penalty of up to five years in state prison.

Despite being signed into law over two years ago, medical marijuana is not yet available in New Jersey. Although the Department of Health and Senior Services (“DHSS”) has finalized the regulations for the medicinal marijuana program, implementation of the program has been slow and halting. On March 21, 2011, the DHSS granted six licenses to establish Alternative Treatment Centers (“ATCs”), which will dispense the medical marijuana. However, the dispensaries have not received final approval to dispense due to repeated delays. Additionally, some dispensaries have met community opposition.

The end, however, may be near: on April 16, 2012 the first of these six dispensaries was issued a permit by DHSS to begin growing medical marijuana. Additionally, more than 100 physicians have registered to participate in the program. According to the DHSS, patient registration will begin later this year.

For information about New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana program, please visit