The Division of Consumer Affairs (“the Division”) today announced plans to solicit public comment on how marijuana is classified under state law and whether any change in its classification status is warranted. The Division will solicit comments during a series of public events, known as “informal conferences,” in Newark and Trenton later this month. The Division also will accept written submissions.
The informal conferences – scheduled for April 19 and April 24 – are part of a process to reevaluate whether the currently accepted uses for medical marijuana warrant a change in its classification as a “Schedule I” drug in New Jersey, a designation that ranks it alongside heroin and LSD as the most strictly regulated drugs in the state.
The Division is the agency authorized to schedule drugs for regulation under the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Law. The Division schedules controlled dangerous substances on a scale from I to V, and how a drug is scheduled determines how strictly it is regulated. The category of Schedule I is reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States (or without accepted safety for treatment under medical supervision).
The Division’s review of marijuana’s legal status is consistent with a recent decision by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, which ruled that the Division has authority to reevaluate marijuana’s classification under state law, and found that the time is “certainly ripe” to do so.
During its review, the Division will consider evidence of marijuana’s potential for abuse and accepted medical uses, among other things.
Conference participants are requested to offer their views on the following:
- Marijuana’s actual or relative potential for abuse;
- Scientific evidence of marijuana’s pharmacological effect, if known;
- State of current scientific knowledge regarding marijuana;
- Marijuana’s history and current pattern of abuse;
- The scope, duration, and significance of abuse;
- What, if any, risk there is to the public health;
- Marijuana’s psychic or physiological dependence liability; and
- Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under N.J.S.A. 24:21-1 et seq.
Rescheduling a drug is different from legalizing or decriminalizing it. Although rescheduling a drug can affect how strictly it is regulated, any action by the Division to reschedule marijuana will not result in its legalization or decriminalization.
The review of marijuana’s Schedule I status was sparked by the Appellate Court’s decision in Kadonsky v. Lee last fall. The ruling came in response to a 2014 decision under the past administration to deny a petition to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule IV or V drug. The former Division Director had determined that he lacked the authority to reclassify marijuana because the federal government has listed the drug as a Schedule I substance under federal law since 1970.
In a decision delivered by Judge Michael A. Guadagno, the court found that the Division Director does have the authority to reclassify marijuana without any change in federal law.
The Court stated that the medical benefits of marijuana weren’t recognized in 1971 when New Jersey first adopted the federal government’s classification of the drug. More recent scientific research suggests that marijuana has “potential therapeutic value” for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation, among other medicinal benefits.
Notice of the Division’s public conferences was published today in the New Jersey Register.
Four conferences will be held – two in Newark on Thursday April 19, and two in Trenton on Monday, April 24. The sessions will run from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. each day.
A court reporter will be present to record the proceedings.
Requests to speak, indicating which conference the individual wishes to attend, should be submitted in writing to Maryann Sheehan, Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Division of Consumer Affairs, PO Box 45027, Newark, NJ 07101 or electronically at: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/Proposals/Pages/default.aspx no later than April 12, 2018.
Individual speakers are requested to provide a copy of their prepared remarks to the Division at the time of registration, as well as on the day of the conference.
Individuals will not be permitted to pre-register for, or speak at, more than one conference. Specific presentation times will be assigned. Individual presentations will be limited to ten minutes. Based upon the number of individuals who request to speak, the Division reserves the right to reduce the allotted time to speak and/or to schedule additional conferences on future dates.
Those who do not pre-register to speak will be given an opportunity to do so only as time permits.
For those who prefer to submit only written comments, they may be forwarded to Maryann Sheehan, Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, PO Box 45027, 124 Halsey Street, 7th floor, Newark, New Jersey 07101, or electronically at: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/Proposals/Pages/default.aspx no later than April 12, 2018.