Division of Consumer Affairs Will Not Pursue Appeal of Ruling on Marijuana Classification, Will Review Drug’s Highly Restricted “Schedule I” Status
NEWARK – The Division of Consumer Affairs (“the Division”) today announced that it will not further pursue its appeal from a decision of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, which ruled that the Division has authority to reevaluate how marijuana is classified under state law.
In withdrawing its appeal to the state Supreme Court, consistent with the Appellate Division’s decision, the Division will embark on a process to revisit whether the currently accepted uses for medical marijuana warrant any change in its classification. While the Appellate Division in no way dictated that marijuana should be rescheduled, it did conclude that the time was “certainly ripe” to evaluate its current status under the law.
The Division is the agency authorized to classify or “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. Schedule I—the most strictly regulated category - 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 in treatment under medical supervision).
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. The Appellate Court’s October 2017 decision does not change how marijuana is classified under state law, and it does not require the State to change marijuana’s classification. Today’s decision not to pursue an appeal also does not change how marijuana is classified.
Rescheduling a drug is different than 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 Appellate Court’s ruling in Kadonsky v. Lee came in response to a 2014 decision by the former Director of the Division 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 medical benefits of marijuana weren’t recognized in 1971 when New Jersey first adopted the federal government’s classification of the drug, the court stated, but 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.
Consistent with the court’s decision, the Division soon will initiate a process for reviewing marijuana's continued classification as a Schedule I substance in New Jersey. The Division intends to consider evidence of marijuana’s potential for abuse and accepted medical uses, among other things.
As part of its evidence-based decision-making process, the Division intends to solicit input from members of the public. Additional information about the process will be announced in the coming weeks.