Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order that could dramatically change the state’s medical marijuana program. His actions have sparked the larger question: How is the governor of New Jersey ending prohibition?
Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order
Murphy’s executive order requires the New Jersey Department of Health to review the state’s current medical marijuana laws. It also calls on state agencies and lawmakers to come up with ways to make medical marijuana more accessible to a larger number of patients. The governor gave state agencies 60 days to accomplish these tasks.
Murphy said his executive order is a response to severe limitations on New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. In particular, he said that current rules don’t give enough patients access to cannabis. Similarly, those who can use medical marijuana face tight limitations on how much they can possess and how they can obtain it.
New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010. But the state’s former governor, Chris Christie, is an outspoken opponent of cannabis. While in office, he led efforts to curtail the state’s medical marijuana program. Under rules established by his administration, there are only a small number of health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Local media reported that muscle control disorders are the most frequently prescribed condition.
Qualifying patients are not allowed to possess more than two ounces per month. Similarly, the state does not allow home delivery. Many patients and activists—including Governor Murphy—see these rules as too restrictive and limiting.
“The roadblocks put in place by the past administration mean that the law’s spirit has been stifled, Gov. Murphy said at a signing ceremony yesterday. “The system we have inherited can best be described as medical marijuana in name only.”
Final Hit: How Is The Governor of New Jersey Ending Prohibition?
Interestingly, this is one of Murphy’s first actions as governor. He officially took office last week, on January 16. At this point, it’s unclear if his order will lead to any actual legislative changes. Similarly, it’s unclear if this action will become part of a larger push toward legalization.
But Governor Murphy isn’t the only pro-cannabis lawmaker in New Jersey to make headlines. Senator Cory Booker has become one of the nation’s leading pro-cannabis politicians. Last fall, he introduced The Marijuana Justice Act to the Senate. Then, last week, Representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna brought a similar version of the bill before the House of Representatives.
Booker’s bill calls for a radical new approach to cannabis. For starters, it calls for the federal legalization of weed. But it goes even further. The Marijuana Justice Act also aims to address the harm caused by the war on drugs. As researchers and activists have long pointed out, the war on drugs—and especially the war on weed—has disproportionately targeted communities of color.
Among other things, Booker’s bill would expunge all cannabis-related crimes from peoples’ records. It would also create job training programs. These programs would primarily serve areas impacted by weed laws. Both Booker’s bill and Murphy’s new executive order come as the federal government could be preparing to crack down on states with legal weed.
In that context, it’s hard to come up with a clear answer to the question: How is the governor of New Jersey ending prohibition? But his new order could be a step in the right direction.