By Steve Elliott
As photographers snapped pictures, New Jersey Senate candidate Don DeZarn took a deep toke of marijuana smoke. His wife, capturing the scene on a cellphone, asked him who it was for.
"Who is this for?" repeated DeZarn, exhaling smoke, reports Mike Davis of The Times of Trenton. "This is for all my brothers and sisters who are currently being held prisoners of war by our government as a result of the War On Drugs."
DeZarn, 46, running on the Libertarian ticket, called it a public statement for marijuana legalization; no police were on hand to arrest him. Legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis is one of the chief planks of his campaign platform for the state senate; he also calls for cutting property taxes and increasing government transparency.
The fact that our state freely regulates, sells and taxes alcohol -- while prosecuting people who use marijuana in the privacy of their own home -- is insanity to me," DeZarn said. "It's completely insanity that we spend that type of money when there's far worse things out there."
DeZarn said marijuana should be regulated similarly to alcohol, in order to add tax money to the state's coffers while saving on the costs of arresting and charging pot smokers.
By Steve Elliott
Three years after then-Gov. Jon Corzine signed a medical marijuana bill into law, New Jersey patients still only have one operating dispensary at which to gain safe access to medicinal cannabis. But that could change in September.
A second medical marijuana dispensary expects to open for business on September 9, a state official said on Monday, saving Egg Harbor Township residents a drive to Essex County, reports Derek Harper at Press of Atlantic City.
Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. expects about 500 patients per month, according to state Department of Health spokeswoman Donna Leusner. The DOH regulates the state's medical marijuana program, for which 885 patients have so far registered.
As many as 16,000 plants will be cultivated at the Egg Harbor Township facility, raising interesting questions about the possibility of federal enforcement actions (the Feds have typically been attracted to grows of more than 100 plants, since the 10-year federal mandatory minimum for marijuana cultivation kicks in at that point).
One local medical marijuana supporter said he was disappointed that the dispensary isn't already open.
By Steve Elliott
Longtime cannabis advocate Ed Forchion, the N.J. Weedman, has turned his attention to the marijuana laws themselves. Forchion, a Pembertown Township resident, has posted a 12-page legal motion online which he said can be used by anyone arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey.
"I'm tired of being a one-man gang," Forchion said, reports Mike Davis at The Times of Trenton, N.J. "I've been arguing these arguments for years. I'm just putting it out there. I don't care who does it, but let's get it done."
Forchion filed the brief in response to his most recent bust, after two Evesham, N.J., police officers found two joints on him after a vehicle stop on April 15.
"It's just like taking aspirin or Motrin," Forchion said. "I've got three joints with me right now. This could happen to me every day. I just about always have something on me."
Forchion argues that his arrest -- and all cannabis arrests since January 18, 2010 -- should be declared null and void.
That's because former N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine on that date signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act into law. The Act allows patients with specific serious illnesses to register with the state, and to buy cannabis from one of six allowed dispensaries (only one of which is open so far).
By Steve Elliott
A huge warehouse that once housed Donald Trump's surplus blackjack tables in an industrial park outside Atlantic City will be the site of South Jersey's first medical marijuana farm -- the second in the entire state -- where plants will be started next month and cannabis is scheduled to be sold starting on September 9.
The state's second "alternative treatment center" will be opening in Egg Harbor more than three years after the state's medical marijuana program became law, reports Jan Hefler at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Only force majeure could stop us... or acts of God," said William Thomas, chief executive at Compassionate Care Foundation, as he monitored the progress of his $1.7 million renovation project last week.
Although three previous launch dates have failed to materialize, the plan now has momentum, according to Thomas.
Once Compassionate Care gets the final go-ahead from New Jersey to begin cultivation, 2,000 marijuana seeds will be imported from Spain, which produces strains that target spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis, Thomas said. Lights are being installed in the 85,000-square-foot warehouse to grow the crop.
By Steve Elliott
Police can force their way in and make an arrest when they are greeted at the door by someone smoking marijuana, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
The began when four Newark officers, working on a confidential tip in 2008, were trying to go undercover to arrest a drug dealer at Riverview Court housing projects. Their "undercover" status didn't last long when the dealer, Rashad Walker, answered the door with a burning joint, according to court records, reports Salvador Rizzo at the Star-Ledger.
"Defendant appeared at the door smoking a marijuana cigarette," the court ruled. "Thus, a disorderly persons offense was being committed in the presence of police officers in the hallway of a public housing building, where the officers have a right to be."
The cops forced their way inside, arrested Walker and confiscated marijuana, cocaine, and "27 envelopes of heroin stamped 'Horsepower' " from his living room, according to court records.
Walker served half of his six-year sentence before being paroled last year. He had argued that the Newark police violated his rights under the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, protecting people from "unreasonable search and seizure" of their homes.
By Steve Elliott
A security guard at the George Washington Bridge (which spans the Hudson River, between New York and New Jersey) was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly smoking marijuana on the job.
Sami Omar, 26, of North Bergen, New Jersey, is an employee of FJC Security, a private company that contracts with the Port Authority, authority spokesman Steve Coleman said, reports Dan Ivers of NJ.com.
Port Authority Officer Kevin Hart was reportedly conducting regular post inspections at around 2 p.m. when he smelled "a strong odor of marijuana" coming from the book in which Omar was working. When questioned by Hart, Omar replied that "there must have been a skunk nearby," Coleman said. (Nice try, Omar.)
Omar, whose job is to watch for suicide jumpers and terror attacks, allegedly sprayed aerosol inside the booth in an attempt to mask the cannabis smell.
Hart searched the area, finding a half-smoked blunt and a small bag of weed.
Omar was arrested and charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and being under the influence of a "controlled dangerous substance."
The Port Authority called Omar's conduct "intolerable" and said it would review its security policies.
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would ensure that medical marijuana patients' use of cannabis would not prevent them from getting needed medical care such as organ transplants was approved Tuesday by a New Jersey state Senate committee.
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee took action to prevent patients from getting kicked off transplant lists due to their physician-authorized medicinal cannabis use, reports Sy Mukerjee at Think Progress.
The panel passed S-1220, sponsored by New Jersey state Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Nicholas P. Scutari. The legislation "would provide that a registered, qualifying patient's authorized use of medical marijuana would be considered equivalent to using other prescribed medication rather than an illicit substance and therefore would not qualify the person from needed medical care, such as an organ transplant."
"We are hearing of cases in other states of sick and dying patients being kicked off organ transplant waiting lists for their legal use of medical marijuana," said Sen. Vitale (D-Middlesex), who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee. "This practice is unconscionable as the patients have followed their doctors' orders and have taken a legal medication to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness.
By David Madden, CBS
TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – A New Jersey Superior Court Judge has referred a case involving the state’s medical marijuana program to an Appeals panel.
Judge Mary Jacobson made the ruling in Trenton as she denied a bid by the Christie Administration to throw a lawsuit out. That suit seeks to have the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey serve as court appointed monitors of the three-year-old program.
Coalition CEO Ken Wolski says, “We feel that the medicinal marijuana program is not being implemented in any kind of meaningful way and that tens of thousands of patients continue to be harmed.”
The state has put rules in place making it difficult for patients, doctors and distributors alike. Only one distribution center is open out of six called for under the rules (see related story). State officials declined comment, but in legal briefs suggest that setting up the program is a “daunting task.”
New Jersey: Senate moves towards dissolving Christie's medical marijuana proposal as patients plead for actionSubmitted by restore on Tue, 01/25/2011 - 19:16
By Susan K. Livio, Statehouse Bureau
Video by John Munson, The Star-Ledger
TRENTON — New Jersey is getting closer to going into the medical marijuana business.
A key state senator says he now supports the idea of having the state's supply of medical marijuana initially grown by Rutgers University.
Democrat Nicholas Scutari says he is now working with the administration of Gov. Chris Christie to modify a law to put the novel system in place.
In January, lawmakers approved making New Jersey the 14th state to allow medical marijuana. But the program has not been implemented.
Scutari initially had reservations about the administration's plan to have Rutgers grow the medicinal pot and the state's teaching hospitals distribute it to qualified patients.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Bills introduced in the New Jersey Legislature would delay the start of the state's new medical marijuana law until Jan. 1.
Legislation introduced in the Senate and Assembly calls for a three-month delay in the law giving chronically ill patients access to marijuana.
The bill would give the state Health Department more time to set up the system under which AIDS, cancer and MS patients could legally access the drug.
On Friday, Gov. Chris Christie proposed a centralized growing and distribution program with Rutgers University and state hospitals playing major roles.
Sen. Nick Scutari, a sponsor of the medical marijuana act, says he's considering Christie's suggestions.
|New Jersey lawmakers pass medical marijuana law|
By The Star-Ledger Continuous News Desk
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie is requesting more time to implement the medical marijuana law passed by the legislature in January, and scheduled to take effect in July, according to a report on NJSpotlight.com.
The governor's staff is requesting a six to 12-month delay, the report said, in order to sort out logistics of implementing the law. Changing the timetable would require passage of another bill by the legislature, the report said.
In March, The Star-Ledger reported that both Christie and acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner Poonam Alaigh asked to extend the timetable.
According to Alaigh, the department was having some issues.
"We are rigorously trying to meet the time frame, but the first priority is to create a structure" that will be the "most restrictive, in the way the law was meant to be," Alaigh said in March.
By David Kocieniewski, The New York Times
Photo by Damon Winter, The New York Times
TRENTON — The New Jersey Legislature approved a measure on Monday that would make the state the 14th in the nation, but one of the few on the East Coast, to legalize the use of marijuana to help patients with chronic illnesses.
The measure — which would allow patients diagnosed with severe illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to have access to marijuana grown and distributed through state-monitored dispensaries — was passed by the General Assembly and State Senate on the final day of the legislative session.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he would sign it into law before leaving office next Tuesday. Supporters said that within nine months, patients with a prescription for marijuana from their doctors should be able to obtain it at one of six locations.
By Associated Press
Jurors have returned a split verdict in the case of a multiple sclerosis patient in New Jersey who said he grew marijuana for medicinal purposes.
John Wilson was acquitted Thursday of the most serious charge: operating a drug production facility.
But the Somerset County jury convicted the 37-year-old of manufacturing marijuana and possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
During the trial, Wilson was allowed to make only brief mention of his medical condition. He testified that he grew marijuana plants behind his Franklin Township rental property and took the drug for personal use.
By Suzanne Sataline, Wall Street Journal
New Jersey is poised to become the next state to allow residents to use marijuana, when recommended by a doctor, for relief from serious diseases and medical conditions.
The state Senate has approved the bill and the state Assembly is expected to follow. The legislation would then head to the governor's office for his signature.
Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democrat who lost his re-election bid this month, has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk before he leaves office in January. It would likely be one of Mr. Corzine's last acts before relinquishing the job to Republican Chris Christie.
Mr. Christie has indicated he would be supportive of such legislation, but had concerns that one draft of a bill he read didn't have enough restrictions, a spokeswoman said.
The bill has been endorsed by the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians and the New Jersey State Nurses Association.
Some lawmakers oppose the legislation, saying they fear the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, as in California, where medical marijuana is legal. "It sends a mixed message to our children if you can walk down the street and see pot shops," said Republican Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini.