Updated: NOVEMBER 30, 2016 — 11:59 PM EST
by Jan Hefler, Staff Writer
Now that New Jersey has had a medical marijuana program in place for nearly seven years, shouldn’t the state change the decades-old classification of marijuana as one of the most dangerous and reviled drugs, one without any medicinal benefit?
That question was posed to a state appeals panel Tuesday on behalf of two plaintiffs – an inmate serving a life sentence for drug trafficking and a Maple Shade teenager who uses medical marijuana to control epileptic seizures.
After listening to the arguments, the three-judge panel in Trenton said it would release an opinion later.
Newark lawyers Joseph Linares and Marc Haefner of the Walsh Firm contend it is inconsistent for the state to have a medical marijuana program and a classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin. Cocaine and other addictive drugs fall into Schedule II and III and are considered less harmful than marijuana, the lawyers argued.
State Deputy Attorney General Jodi Krugman opposed changing the classification, noting that the federal government classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug in 1970 and has repeatedly turned down petitions to assign it a new designation, most recently last summer. “Other states with medical marijuana programs have not rescheduled marijuana,” she said.
Linares, however, said state law requires the director of consumer affairs to review the classifications of controlled drugs and make changes “when appropriate” and without deference to the federal classification.