New Jersey: Aggressive Law Enforcement, Dysfunctional Politics & Lack of Medical Cannabis “Garden State”
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PHOTO: Andy Morris
A woman I recently met in South Jersey told me she was the victim of a violent crime – a home invasion. She called 911. When the police arrived they noticed rolling papers on her coffee table. They got a warrant and searched her house. They found found her personal stash of marijuana–a little over 2 ounces.
The police placed her under arrest. They put her in hand cuffs and took her to the station. They took her mug shot and fingerprinted her and put her in a cell.
This woman has had multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1990 – for 23 years. She suffers terribly and has seen her health and her appearance deteriorate significantly over the course of her illness. Marijuana is the only medicine that safely and effectively controls her symptoms. Plus, marijuana has some neuroprotective effects so she may have deteriorated even more without using it. She keeps a couple ounces of cannabis in the house so she has steady access to it.
The police made her face trumped-up charges of distribution in a school zone and near a public park—charges that carry lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences of a decade or more. They tried to terrorize her into telling them who sold her the pot. The police never questioned her anymore about the home invasion—they were only interested in the marijuana.
The woman refused to snitch. Instead, she secured a lawyer and posted $1000 cash bail.
At court, she pled guilty to a lesser offense – plea bargained back down to just over 50 grams and the State dropped the “school zone” and the “public park” sentence enhancements, along with the charge that she intended to distribute the marijuana.
Now this woman is on probation for two years. She has to pass random urine tests, or she will be sent to prison for violation of her probation.
So here is a woman who qualifies for marijuana therapy in New Jersey by virtue of her diagnosis. She cannot get legal access to marijuana because the State’s Medicinal Marijuana Program is only a fraction of what it should be. In fact, there is no current legal marijuana access for patients in South Jersey, where this woman lives. The Department of Health acknowledges this woman’s need for medical marijuana to treat her MS. Another part of the same State, the Office of Attorney General, is punishing her severely for using marijuana to treat her MS. In fact, the State of New Jersey authorizes a government employee to subject this woman to periodic, mandatory urine testing—under threat of repeat incarceration–to make sure that she is not taking the medicine that she wants, needs, and should be authorized by law to use.
This woman was victimized not only by the felons who invaded her home, but by the police, the prosecutor, and the judge. In fact, she has been victimized by the entire criminal justice system in New Jersey, because of the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Health to completely implement its Medicinal Marijuana Program.