What Does Marijuana Legalization Mean For Case Law In New Jersey?

The passage of recreational and medicinal marijuana laws all over the country has created a legal quagmire for businesses. Many businesses choose to drug test new applicants or employees before an official decision on hiring is made. And drug tests are nearly always administered following a work-related injury or accident. These drug tests are never 100 percent accurate, and in the case of marijuana many of them can detect THC months after use. 

In other words, a positive test result might bar a person from finding employment but it does not mean that they are using the drug at that moment — or even months beforehand. Should this be legal? Businesses have a lot of decisions to make. Courts have even more!

Senate Bill No. 21 legalized possession and distribution of recreational weed in New Jersey. This has resulted in a number of cases reaching the docket of the New Jersey Supreme Court. 

Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings Inc., 241 N.J. 285 was a case between a cancer-ridden funeral director who had been prescribed medical marijuana and his employer. He was given a drug test by doctors after a traffic accident (which wasn’t even his fault), after which he was fired from his job — even though doctors did, in fact, determine that he was not driving under the influence when the accident occurred.

Wild’s personal injury lawyers argued that he was discriminated against because of his disability. The funeral home’s attorneys argued that the Compassionate Use Act that legalized medical marijuana in New Jersey provided no specific protections for employees, and so they could fire Wild for any reason. The legislation specifically stated that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to require an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.”

But here’s the thing: the wording says “use of marijuana IN any workplace.” It doesn’t say anything to suggest that an employee can discriminate against an employee for using marijuana OUTSIDE of a workplace, which is what Wild was doing. The Supreme Court ruled that Wild’s firing was unlawful. 

This case might be meaningful to lawyers who practice workers comp law, because a number of New Jersey residents have already been fired following accidents with subsequent positive drug tests. 

In January, Hager v. M&K Construction, 462 N.J. Super. 146 was ruled on by the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Court, which decided that employers and workers comp insurance must reimburse injured workers who are prescribed medical marijuana. The matter was subsequently bounced to an appellate court, which agreed with the first ruling. The Supreme Court will likely take up the case, but until then the matter is unsettled. 

Employers who aren’t sure what the law says need to be extremely careful to avoid high settlement lawsuits!

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 8

In part seven of our series on scientific studies on marijuana, we discussed a study that showed that symptoms of chemotherapy can be relieved using THC. This study occurred in 1975. Because of Gerald Ford’s decision to shut down federal funding for marijuana research in 1976, and Reagan’s attempts to purge research studies already done in colleges all around the US, it will be over two decades before another meaningful decision can be conducted.

A volunteer nurse’s assistant named Mary Jane Rathburn (yes, that Mary Jane), would provide marijuana-laced brownies to patients suffering from HIV and AIDS. She even made them herself! A man named Dr. Donald Abrams caught wind of the scheme. He was head of oncology for the San Francisco General Hospital. He became interested in the potential benefits of THC for relief of symptoms in AIDS patients.

Because the federal government had spent two decades abandoning future research into the benefits of THC — and destroying evidence of the benefits of THC in studies already completed — Abrams had a hell of time getting funding to do the research he wanted to do. But eventually he secured a grant from NIDA.

The subsequent studies he published showed that marijuana did little, if any, harm to the patient. One study explained that cannabis “did not hurt the immune system, did not increase viral load [in HIV patients], did not negatively interact with the protease inhibitors, and actually did facilitate increased caloric intake as well as weight gain.”

The number of benefits to prescribing marijuana to AIDS patients was obvious, but nearly 25 years later, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal to possess or distribute. Some states still do not prescribe medical marijuana. Most states still don’t allow residents to purchase marijuana for recreational use. 

The next study was conducted in 2006 and determined that cannabis does not cause lung cancer — but we’ll talk about that one in a future article.

How Do Marijuana Companies Do Business Without Big Banks

Credit is a very important aspect of any business. Not only are loans important to getting everything up and running, but the simple act of transacting using credit cards or debit cards is important for maintaining a business with any expectation of growth in the future. Marijuana companies have been notoriously shunned by big banks due to federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. 

Local banks are easier to pair with because they operate under the same state laws that a marijuana company does. But when a bank operates in more than one state, it becomes more difficult to abide by different sets of rules for each state. This has been a major obstacle for marijuana companies who need loans or credit for business purposes.

But Bank of America might pave the way to a simplification of operations very soon. Here’s the rub: it isn’t happening in America. Despite the name, Bank of America operates in Canada as well, the same as banks Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. The latter two businesses are trying to delve into the marijuana industry in Canada too. 

Expect to see the banks take it slow for now, while steadily investing in new marijuana and cannabis companies. The banks obviously hope that big governments will begin to legalize the drug for public consumption.

The investments have spurred investments for New York’s Constellation Brands and Canopy Growth in Smith Falls, Ontario.

There’s also movement on another front that might make it easier for marijuana businesses to operate like any other business: a new Congressional bill sponsored by Democratic Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado would weaken or remove current banking prohibitions. He said that the lack of access to digital bucks “creates a serious public safety risk for our communities.”

That’s because we’re still talking about a drug. The fact that you can only buy marijuana wish cash makes it easier for those with illegal finances to remain unnoticed.

Co-sponsor Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio said, “This bill does not currently solve the capital market issues.”

The bill is called the SAFE Banking Act, and it would ensure that banks would not be penalized for providing their services (or loans) to marijuana businesses. 

Other members of Congress want to legalize marijuana completely to make the banking point moot — but Democrats who support the bill would require the votes of 10 Republicans and other moderate Democrats, which makes it nearly certain to fail. Then again, there has been recent talk of eliminating the filibuster — and doing so would make the liberal agenda much easier to push through Congress. For now, passage of either bill is very unlikely.

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 7

You might think that we would be done with this series on scientific studies conducted on marijuana, since the government routinely tells us there’s not much information on the dangers of marijuana available — but here we are. Last time, we talked about studies that demonstrated THC’s ability to shrink brain tumors in animal tests and the government’s attempts to quash those reports. We also mentioned the Reagan Administration’s attempts to purge research done on the subject as part of its insane “war of drugs” and the DEA’s effect on minority arrests.

Before federal support for marijuana studies what cut off in 1976, there was a study that explored its effects on the relief of symptoms caused by chemotherapy in 1975.

Harvard Medical School Associate Professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon was a huge opponent of marijuana back in the 60s because his buddy Carl Sagan — who you’ve heard about if you ever watched Cosmos — was smoking so much. But it was Grinspoon’s subsequent research that made him realize that the anti-marijuana sentiment was based on government-funded propaganda and nothing else.

His research was furthered when his son Danny was diagnosed with leukemia when he was only 15. 

Grinspoon wrote: “On a normal day of chemotherapy, I hoped we could make it home from the hospital before Danny’s vomiting would start, and we always had to put a big bucket next to his bed. But the first time he tried taking a few puffs prior to a round of treatments, he got off the gurney and said, ‘Mom, there’s a sub shop in Brookline. Could we stop for a sub-sandwich on the way home?’ And all I thought was, ‘Wow.’”

It was because of this that Grinspoon convinced the oncology department at Boston Children’s Hospital to conduct a study in 1975, which was subsequently published in the New England Journal of Medicine after discovering that THC can reduce nausea and vomiting in chemo patients.

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 6

In part five of our series concerning scientific studies conducted on marijuana, we discussed the Shafer Report and its conclusions, which flew in the face of everything public thought about marijuana users — and everything the government was used to saying about users as well. Needless to say, President Nixon — who was responsible for hand-picking the members of that commission — denied the veracity of its reports, and responded by creating the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) a year later. Great job, Mr. President.

The DEA is responsible for thousands upon thousands of arrests, many of which disproportionately target African Americans and members of other minorities. In addition, many of the charges filed led to long stints in jail or federal prison — which were, again, disproportionately laid at the feet of minorities. For more information on that, visit website here.

A 1974 study found that cannabis has cancer-fighting properties. The study was conducted with a different hypothesis, though: to show how dangerous the plant is to the immune system. Researchers working out of the Medical College of Virginia used mice to conduct a series of experiments. They were implanted with tumors before being “treated for 10 consecutive days with delta-9-THC, beginning the day after rumor implantation.”

The researchers believed the THC would make the tumors grow faster. Instead, it showed that the tumors had actually gotten smaller. This research was subsequently published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute — and after that, the scientists found that their funding quickly evaporated. Somehow, only a single newspaper covered the ridiculously good news.

No one conducted similar research until the year 2000, when Dr. Manuel Guzman published his own version of the study in Nature Magazine that March. He found that THC (and cannabinoids in general) had the ability to reduce cancer size without harming other tissue. He had injected cannabinoids into the brains of 45 rats.

The study explained: “All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12 – 18 days after glioma (brain cancer) cell inoculation … Cannabinoid (THC)-treated rats survived significantly longer than the control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16 – 18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19 – 35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats.”

When asked whether or not he knew of the existence of the Virginia study in 1974, Guzman said, “I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by these people, but it has proven impossible.” 

President Gerald Ford ended all marijuana-related research in 1976, but allowed pharmaceutical companies to make an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to develop synthetic THC to reap the same benefits. Because they failed, the public was never given access to the medical benefits of marijuana. 

In 1983, the Reagan Administration provided an initiative to “purge” many of the studies related to THC and marijuana, and many were indeed lost.

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 5

We discussed the discovery of THC and the endocannabinoid system in part four of our series on scientific studies conducted on marijuana. You’ve all heard the familiar line, “Well, we haven’t studied marijuana enough to know whether or not it’s bad.” Malarkey. The point we’re trying to make is that we know plenty. Studies have been conducted all around the world for decades. Today, we’ll talk about the 1972 Shafer Commission Report. 

President Richard Nixon once hand-picked a number of respected scientific experts to study the effects of marijuana. It lasted only two years. The result of the study? Not what you’d expect.

Part of the Shafer Commission read: “Criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use…It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.”

The thing about scientists is that they prefer facts over politics. The president replied by publicly attacking the findings of the report. Not surprisingly, the report was wholly ignored as far as the federal government’s policy on marijuana was concerned. It was Nixon himself who created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to wage war on marijuana only a year later.

Among other things, the report flew in the face of everything the public thought it knew about cannabis users: instead of being aggressive or dangerous, the report suggested they were more likely timid and passive. 

Members of the commission included Michael R. Sonnenreich; Dana L. Farnsworth, MD; Kentucky Representative Tim Lee Carter; President of Rockford University John A. Howard, PhD; Senators Harold E. Hughes and Jacob K. Javits; Representative Paul G Rogers; and psychiatrist J. Thomas Ungerleider, MD. There were several others involved in production.

Marijuana Jobs: How Well Do they Pay?

Legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana came with a boatload of promises, only some of which have come true. One of the biggest presidential promises (that’s a joke) was that marijuana legalization would result in a lot of great paying jobs in the industry. While there are some more specialized positions that pay relatively well, and the average position doesn’t exactly pay poorly, industry analysts still expected better.

This waiter pay graphic shows what one might expect to make in a less-than-minimum wage profession. Remember that line about how table service is basically the one job anyone can do and still make a decent living — as long as people tip well? Marijuana isn’t that type of job, of course, but the pay is slightly less. 

Professional recruiting firm Vangst recently released a jobs report on marijuana positions. CEO Karson Humiston wrote: “To further help job seekers and cannabis companies, Vangst now offers new job searching and networking features which make it even easier for our community to learn, communicate, and grow with one another.”

She added, “It’s giving candidates and hiring teams a much-needed way to make genuine human connections at a time when getting the conversation started with more integral than ever.”

The survey includes information on jobs, job pay, and benefits for new employees.

According to the Vangst survey, around 83 percent of professions in the marijuana industry receive paid time off (PTO) and 73 percent receive medical benefits. Most jobs make at least $15 an hour, making them better than most positions in other “retail” industries. 

One of the top paying jobs is that of a “director of cultivation,” who might make around $115,000 a year. One of the lowest paying jobs is that of a “trimmer,” who might make $15 an hour. 

The person in charge — the “president of retail operations” — stands to make around $150,000 a year. Going down the hierarchy, managers will make around $65,000 a year while “extraction technicians” will make around $37,000 a year on average. Budtenders will also make around $15 an hour.

It’s worth noting that these are still strong numbers for a completely new industry in the United States. Cannabis job offerings will likely explode in the coming years — especially if the U.S. government were to, say, legalize marijuana at the federal level — and with those offerings the opportunity for increased growth in the industry, which will lead to better pay and benefits.

The last election resulted in successful marijuana legislation in five states. The wave is continuing to spread. 

Vangst believes that at least 26,000 new jobs will be added by 2025, with 21,393 of those added in New Jersey. 

Vangst head of content Sean Cooley wrote, “We consistently see high demand for gig workers, so trimmers, packagers, and budtenders are always needed, and over the past year there’s been a surge in delivery drivers and logistics coordinators. On top of that, we’ve seen a jump in cultivation directors, administrative and corporate employees, sales reps, marketers, lab managers, and directors of HR as hiring plans are ramping up to meet post-quarantine demands.”

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 4

Did you know that THC wasn’t even discovered until 1964? Until then, we had no idea what provided marijuana with its kick. Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his team were responsible for the finding, and it helped us understand more about the drug and how our bodies reacted to it — but very little to influence U.S. laws.

Surprisingly, it was Mechoulam’s research that helped other scientists discover the body’s endocannabinoid system in the ‘80s. Even today, plenty of research is devoted to really understanding the system, but we know it probably regulates many of the body’s processes, “including fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, various activity of the immune system, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory, and in mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis.”

Would you find mention of marijuana on the wikipedia page for this system? Nope! But you will find a few references to cannabis and THC.

Basically, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for letting the body interact with — and react to — THC and similar chemical compounds. You’ve probably heard the word “homeostasis” uttered in high school biology, but you might not remember what it means. If your body temperature gets too high, you get a fever. If it gets too low, you get hypothermia. The zone in between is an example of homeostasis. Our bodies need a certain set of conditions to be just right to function efficiently. When those conditions begin to fall outside of the necessary parameters, our bodies start to break down fast.

The endocannabinoid system helps us maintain homeostasis. The three main parts of this system include cannabinoid receptors (which should obviously sound familiar if you like marijuana and THC), endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes. The receptors help transmit important information to the brain about what is happening in our cells. 

The endocannabinoids are molecules that help activate the receptors. And the enzymes break apart all the endocannabinoids that our bodies have already used — like THC.

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 3

The 1944 Laguardia Report is the focus of this, the third part of our discussion on what scientific studies have to say about marijuana and its effects on the general public — and whether or not the drug should be legalized for medical or recreational use. The Laguardia Report was a direct consequence to years of misinformation endorsed by Federal Bureau of Narcotics overlord Harry J. Anslinger, who did lasting damage to the legacy of pot.

The new report was commissioned by New York City’s Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and was ultimately endorsed by the New York Academy of Medicine.

The report concluded: “Marijuana, like alcohol, does not alter the basic personality. Marijuana does not of itself give rise to antisocial behavior. There is no evidence to suggest that the continued use of marijuana is a stepping stone to the use of opiates. Prolonged use of the drug does not lead to physical, mental, or moral degeneration, nor have we observed any permanent deleterious effects from its continued use. Quite the contrary, marijuana and its derivatives and allied synthetics have potentially valuable therapeutic applications which merit future investigation.”

Keep in mind, this was all long before Reagan’s War on Drugs. The report also helps debunk the popular “gateway drug” theory, which might be more aptly applied to caffeine by those with a brain. 

The commission reached many conclusions about marijuana. These include that the drug was used extensively in Manhattan, but perhaps not as often as was the case in other states. The report also mentioned that the price of the drug was low, which made it of particular interest to those living in poverty.

More importantly, the study concluded that marijuana did not lead to physical dependence (medically; we all know we can become addicted to our afternoon snack or anything else). Another conclusion? Marijuana was not a factor in major crimes in the city, making it a safer drug to society than similar drugs like alcohol.

Does Marijuana Make Sexual Assault More Likely?

We wanted to create even more awareness about the legalities of marijuana after publishing two posts on workers comp and personal injury laws related to medical marijuana. This time, we’ll explore what marijuana means during sex. You’ve already heard the rumors that pot makes sexual intercourse far more enjoyable. For some, it does. And a new study seems to suggest that having sex under the influence of marijuana even makes you regret it less in the morning!

But does marijuana increase instances of sexual assault? You can ask yourself the same question except after replacing “marijuana” with “alcohol” and know the answer off the top of your head: yes. But each drug is different.

The main thing to keep in mind with marijuana is that each person’s reaction to the drug is unique. You might have heard of a sleepy drunk, or a relaxed drunk, or an angry drunk — but at the end of the day we all experience much the same thing when we imbibe alcoholic beverages. 

We don’t really know whether or not marijuana affects people similarly to alcohol when it comes to decision-making.

Dr. Mark Green is an addiction psychiatrist in Belmont, Massachusetts and agrees with this assessment. He said, “[Alcohol] makes people impulsive. But it also allows people to get over their performance anxiety and explore sex. A lot of people might not have sex without alcohol.”

The problem is that alcohol also makes people make bad decisions that can have permanent legal consequences. Green explained, “People think they are being suave, sophisticated and sexual and their partner is into it as well. But they ignore the fact that they’re impaired, and their partner may be highly ambivalent, and not giving fully informed consent. On alcohol, you can really misread the signs. Even worse, alcohol increases violence and forced sex can occur.”

Although the research hasn’t really pointed the finger at marijuana when it comes to assault cases, the courts can sometimes be swayed by evidence on hand — even though there usually isn’t any. And Green speculated on what it could mean. He said, “Think of paranoia. What paranoia means is that you over-read the negative signs. In those cases when there’s not fully informed consent, the paranoia-enhancing aspect of pot makes people pick this out — this is not cool, the person is not comfortable. In this way alcohol and pot work on opposite ends of the continuum.”

Keep in mind that an addiction psychiatrist in Massachusetts might see it very differently than some random California sexual abuser lawyer who wants to use marijuana to build his case that you assaulted someone during sex.

But if Green is right, then that means that marijuana could become the “good sex” drug in more than just anecdotal stories. Future studies could prove that users are actually less likely to commit sexualized crimes with their partners. But it’s important to recognize that the actual data simply doesn’t exist yet, and that this is all speculation and conjecture until it does. Therefore, we would strongly recommend that marijuana users take care not to use too much of the drug before having sex — especially because it does affect every user differently.