Kenneth Vercammen is a Middlesex County trial attorney who has published 130 articles in national and New Jersey publications on Criminal Law and litigation topics. He was awarded the NJ State State Bar Municipal Court Practitioner of the Year. He lectures and handles criminal cases, Municipal Court, DWI, traffic and other litigation matters. He is Co Chair of the ABA Criminal Law Committee, GP and was a speaker at the ABA Annual Meeting. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us or New clients email us evenings and weekends go to www.njlaws.com/ContactKenV.htm

Kenneth Vercammen & Associates, P.C,

2053 Woodbridge Avenue,

Edison, NJ 08817,

(732) 572-0500,

www.njlaws.com

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Jersey Adopts the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act


Medical research suggests that marijuana may alleviate pain or other symptoms associated with certain debilitating medical conditions. Federal law, however, prohibits the use of marijuana. Ninety-nine percent of marijuana-related arrests in the country are made under state law rather than under federal law. Changing state law would therefore provide legal protection to the vast majority of seriously ill people who use marijuana medically. Thirteen other states permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and with this law, New Jersey would join the effort to protect patients using marijuana to alleviate suffering from arrest, prosecution, and other legal sanctions, as well as provide protection to their physicians, caregivers, alternative treatment centers authorized to produce marijuana for medical purposes, and persons who simply are in the vicinity of permitted medical use of marijuana.


PATIENT/CAREGIVER IDENTIFICATION CARD
The law provides that DHSS shall issue registry identification cards containing the patients photograph to qualifying patients and their primary caregivers. The law defines “qualifying patient” or “patient” as a person who has been diagnosed by a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship as having a “debilitating medical condition.” “Debilitating medical condition” is defined as: cancer, glaucoma, positive HIV/AIDS status, or the treatment of these conditions; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms; and other medical conditions that may administratively be added by the department. “Primary caregiver” or “caregiver” is defined as a person who is at least 18 years old, who has never been convicted of a felony drug offense, has agreed to assist with a qualifying patients medical use of marijuana and has been designated as primary caregiver on the patients registry identification card, or in other written notification to the department. A primary caregiver may only have one qualified patient at any one time. A patients physician could not serve as a primary caregiver. 
DHSS shall issue registry identification cards to qualifying patients who submit the following:
- written certification that the person is a qualifying patient (medical records or a statement signed by a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship, stating that in the physicians professional opinion, after completing a full assessment of the patients medical history and current medical condition, the patient has a debilitating medical condition for which recognized drugs or treatments are or would not be effective and the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the patient);
- the required application or renewal fee, which may be based on a sliding scale as determined by the commissioner;
- the patients and caregivers name, address and date of birth; and
- the physicians name, address and telephone number.
The law requires that DHSS verify the information prior to issuing a registry identification card, and approve or deny an application or renewal within 15 days of receipt and issue a registry identification card within five days of approval. DHSS may deny an application or renewal only if the applicant fails to provide the required information, or if it determines that the information was falsified. Denial of an application is considered a final agency decision, subject to review by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
DHSS shall issue a registry identification card to the primary caregiver named in a patients approved application if the caregiver signs a statement agreeing to provide marijuana only to the patient who has named him as primary caregiver. DHSS would be prohibited from issuing a registry identification card to any proposed caregiver with a felony drug offense conviction.
Under the law, it would be a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, for a person to fabricate or misrepresent a registry identification card to a law enforcement official.
DHSS is to maintain a confidential list of the persons to whom it has issued registry identification cards. Individual names and other identifying information on the list are to be confidential, and not subject to public access, but could be released to authorized DHSS employees as necessary to perform official department duties and to authorized employees of State or local law enforcement agencies when necessary to verify that a person who is engaged in the suspected or alleged medical use of marijuana is lawfully in possession of a registry identification card.

ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT CENTERS
The law provides that DHSS shall establish a registration program authorizing alternative treatment centers to produce and dispense marijuana for medical purposes. A person who has been convicted of possession or sale of a controlled dangerous substance shall not be issued a permit to operate, or be an employee of, an alternative treatment center, unless such conviction was for a violation of federal law relating to possession or sale of marijuana for conduct that is legal under the law. All usable marijuana, seeds and seedlings associated with the production of marijuana for a registered qualifying patient would be the property of the patient and must be provided to the patient upon request. An alternative treatment center may be reimbursed by a patient for reasonable costs associated with the production of marijuana for that patient.
An alternative treatment center permit holder or his employee would not be subject to arrest or prosecution, or penalized in any manner for the acquisition, distribution, possession, cultivation, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia related to marijuana on behalf of a registered identification cardholder, provided the amount of marijuana possessed by the center, combined with the amount possessed by the registered patient and his primary caregiver, does not exceed six marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana per patient

LEGAL PROTECTIONS
The law provides that a patient and his caregiver who possess a registry identification card and collectively possess no more than six marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana would receive the following protections under this law:
- The person would not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty, or denied any right or privilege, including civil penalty or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board, for the medical use of marijuana.
- The person would be entitled to a rebuttable presumption of medical use of marijuana if the patient or his caregiver possesses a registry identification card and the permissible amount of marijuana. 
- The person could assert an affirmative defense of medical use of marijuana, unless the person was operating a motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana, or smoking marijuana in a school bus or other form of public transportation, on any school grounds, in any correctional facility, or at any public park, public beach, public recreation center or youth center. 
- Possession of, or application for, a registry identification card shall not alone constitute probable cause to search a person or his property.
- If a patient has in his possession a registry identification card and the permissible amount of marijuana, N.J.S.A.26:2-82 (authorizing the destruction of marijuana determined to exist by the Department of Health and Senior Services) would not apply.
The law extends these protections to a qualified patient who is under 18 years of age if the patient and his legal guardian are advised by the patients physician of the risks and benefits of using marijuana for medical purposes, and the legal guardian consents in writing to allow the medical use of marijuana, serve as the primary caregiver, and control the patient’s acquisition, dosage and frequency of use. 
A physician who provides written certification for the medical use of marijuana to a qualifying patient would not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including a penalty or disciplinary action by the State Board of Medical Examiners.
In addition, the law would protect persons from arrest and prosecution for constructive possession, conspiracy, or any other offense if they were in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana as permitted by the law.