A New Jersey Appellate Court earlier this week claimed the health benefits of cannabis are abundantly and glaringly apparent now,” forcing the state lawmakers to review its medical marijuana program.
In an unprecedented ruling, two out of three judges on the appellate court panel essentially confirmed that marijuana is medicine, saying that Gov. Chris Christie and his administration are required to revisit the legal status of the state’s law regarding marijuana.
For more than four decades, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal and state laws. The classification means that the herb has a “high potential for abuse” and is in the category as heroin and LSD.
The court’s ruling said that Steve Lee, the former director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, had the state’s legal authority to reclassify marijuana, despite the federal mandate. In 2014, Lee, citing the 1971 federal law, refused the rescheduling request from plaintiff Steven Kadonsky, who was serving a life sentence for trafficking. Kadonsky’s defense team claimed that marijuana was incorrectly scheduled under New Jersey law.
The judges, noting that New Jersey had allowed medical marijuana since 2010, agreed. If New Jersey citizens were allowed to use cannabis to treat pain, PTSD, and other qualifying conditions, the state had standing to consider rescheduling.
The court’s ruling does not change marijuana’s legal status in New Jersey and the Attorney General’s Office plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. But the decision could be an impetus for rescheduling marijuana.
Judge Michael Guadagno, who wrote the majority opinion for the appellate panel, is married to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican front-runner in November’s governor’s race. Although the gubernatorial candidate is an ardent opponent of recreational marijuana, she has gone on record as saying she would make it easier for people to have access to medical marijuana.
Her likely Democratic opponent Phil Murphy wants to “legalize marijuana so police can focus resources on violent crime.”