- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A New Jersey appeals court has ordered state regulators to reconsider whether marijuana deserves being categorized as a Schedule 1 substance lacking medical value in light of its “abundantly and glaringly apparent” health benefits.

The 2-1 ruling handed down Tuesday by a state appellate court requires the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to reconsider the plant’s legal standing in light of lawmakers legalizing medical marijuana in 2010. The Garden State is one of more than two dozen where doctors can currently recommend cannabis to patients suffering from certain illnesses.

New Jersey agreed in 1971 to adopt the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, putting pot in the same category as heroin, LSD and other drugs deemed to have a “high potential for abuse” and no medical value.

But more than 45 years after passing the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substance Act (CDSA), the majority opinion delivered Tuesday acknowledged that researchers have since linked the plant to potential health benefits, evidenced arguably most clearly by the existing of medical marijuana programs present in 29 states and Washington, D.C., New Jersey included.

“Medical benefits from the use of marijuana not known in 1971, when the CDSA became effective … and impediments to its lawful use as a result of its Schedule 1 classification, are abundant and glaringly apparent now,” the opinion said.

“Scientific research suggests that marijuana has ‘potential therapeutic value’ for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting and appetite stimulation,” the judges added, referencing a 1999 Institute of Medicine report. “In addition, it has been reported that marijuana reduces muscle spasms and spasticity; reduces intraocular pressure; and reduces anxiety.”

The court’s ruling stems from a petition filed in 2014 by Steven Kadonsky, an inmate incarcerated for marijuana trafficking. Kadonsky asked the DCA to consider rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule 1 substance in light of the state legalizing medical marijuana in 2010, but its acting director at the time, Steve Lee, argued that his office lacked the authority to do as much.

Kadonsky challenged the director’s determination, and the appeals court agreed Tuesday that the director “erred in determining he lacked the authority to reclassify marijuana without a change in existing federal law.”

“This matter is remanded to the Director for proceedings consistent with our opinion,” the ruling concluded.

“What this decision does recognize is the widespread acceptance of marijuana use in medical treatment,” Kadonsky’s attorney Joseph Linares told NJ.com.

Leland Moore, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the division disagrees with the ruling and intends to appeal.

Separate from state medical marijuana laws, eight states and the nation’s capital have passed legislation legalizing recreational or “adult use” marijuana, notwithstanding the federal government’s ongoing prohibition on pot. Sixty-four percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, according to the results of a Gallup poll released last month — the highest level of public support ever recorded.

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