August 21, 2018 | ° F

Murphy's marijuana audit moves NJ closer to legalization

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Home delivery service, expanding available edible products and raising the purchase limit from 2 ounces are a few of Gov. Phil Murphy’s ideas for legal marijuana in New Jersey. 

As states across the country move to expand marijuana legalization, Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D-N.J.) 60-day review of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program brings the Garden State one step closer to its own legalization. 

At a press conference in Trenton on Tuesday, Murphy spoke about how efforts to further expand the legalization of medical marijuana and open dispensaries in New Jersey have been slow in light of a hostile administration, according to NJ Advance Media.

“... the ability of dispensaries to open has been slow-footed. Doctors have faced stigmatization for participating. And nonsmokeable and edible products that could benefit patients have been blocked from the market,” he said, according to The New York Times.

Murphy said he is willing to consider providing home delivery services, allowing people to buy more than 2 ounces of dried marijuana a month, expanding the availability of edible products, permitting the six approved dispensary operators to open multiple retail locations and expediting the patient application process, according to NJ Advance Media. 

“The goal of the audit is to improve access for patients, who have encountered far too many bureaucratic hurdles in trying to participate,” Murphy said.

At the conference, Murphy invited a number of families currently enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. 

Soon-to-be Rutgers student Charles Griebell has been a medical marijuana patient since last year. He spoke about how marijuana treatment helps him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Tourette syndrome — newly added to the list of conditions awaiting state approval. 

“(Cannabis-infused butter) calms my body down. I've only had six absences this year, compared to 80 last year,” Griebell said.

As states rapidly transition into pro-marijuana legislation, so have concerns regarding the drug’s possible health implications. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported approximately 70 percent of high school seniors do not consider marijuana harmful and 44 percent report having smoked it at some point in their life, according to Rutgers Today. 

“Issues such as education, treatment and increased studies on how marijuana affects the developing brain should be addressed before laws are enacted," said Theodore Petti, a professor in Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, in an interview with Rutgers Today. 

The brains of people under the age of 25 are still susceptible to adverse side effects from marijuana use, Petti said in an interview with The Daily Targum. 

Paired with exceedingly high Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and a decrease in cannabinol — the compound in marijuana which mitigates the effects of epilepsy without inducing psychotomimetic properties — teenagers and young adults are far more susceptible to negative side effects than their parents were. 

“A lot of individuals who are older adults into middle age recall the marijuana that was available to them and say, 'well that’s not a big issue, I used it and I’m successful,’ but the THC as it increased has more potential for adverse effects and that’s a really major concern,” Petti said.

Despite this, student groups on campus continue to show their support. 

“Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey for eight years. However, it has been incredibly difficult for New Jerseyans to actually gain access to medical marijuana," said Megan Coyne, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of Rutgers Democrats. “It is vital that our state government studies the current system and finds ways to best improve access to it for patients, so as to work towards creating a healthier, fairer and safer state.” 

She said a huge boost to the state’s economy and criminal justice reform are some of the benefits New Jersey residents will reap from legalization. 

“More directly, certain Rutgers’ policies would have to be reconsidered as a result of legalization,” she said. “Currently, students who are found in possession of illegal drugs, which currently includes marijuana, can face a variety of punishment, including arrest, expulsion or loss of University housing. Students are not even allowed to possess or use medical marijuana on the Rutgers campus.” 

Marijuana has plenty of medical benefits as an alternative to opioid painkillers and much fewer negative side effects compared to other legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol, said Brandon Chesner, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and member of the Rutgers Conservative Union. 

“It should honestly be regulated the same way cigarettes are so anything that’ll bring it closer to wider distribution is a positive,” he said. “There isn’t really any reason for all this red tape.”

Christian Zapata

Christian Zapata is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in philosophy. He is the News Editor @ The Daily Targum. 

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