Legal Marijuana in NJ, Coming Soon to a Dispensary Near You

Marijuana is a plant in the cannabaceae family which has been used for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes for thousands of years. At the turn of the last century it was a common ingredient, along with cocaine and heroin, in many over-the-counter medicines sold in the United States.

Eventually cannabis, its proper name, became associated with poor people, immigrants and people of color in the U.S. who were vying for jobs during the Great Depression. The name marijuana was coined by William Randolph Hearst as a racist slur against Mexicans. This was quickly followed by pulp fiction books and movies, such as the campy cult classic Reefer Madness, that made the most absurd and extreme claims about marijuana; mainly that smoking it would turn one into a crazed, murderous, criminal and sexual libertine. Based on no scientific evidence, cannabis was classified as a schedule one drug (no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse).

Over the past few decades, reports of its helpfulness for many illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, anxiety and depression began to filter out to society and the medical community. This was followed by medical and scientific research which verified the value of cannabis in treating a wide variety of illnesses as well as its relative safety for responsible recreational use. It has even been discovered that humans and many other mammals have an endocannabinoid system. In other words, we are biologically equipped with receptors for cannabinoids.

At this point, it is best to clarify that one need not get ‘high’ to benefit from cannabis. The two main chemicals in marijuana are THC (which is psychoactive and is the one that will get you ‘stoned’ in high amounts) and CBD, which is not psychoactive (it will NOT make you high). Most of the health benefits of cannabis come from CBD, which is legal in all states and can be bought without a prescription, in capsule or oil form to treat various illnesses. It has also been found that some THC does potentiate the effects of CBD and for severe pain problems, THC is usually also required.

Much of the cutting edge research on medical marijuana has been done by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam at Jerusalem University in Israel.  Professor Mechoulam answers medical marijuana questions during Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s November 2010 “Expert on the Spot.”

As the medicinal value of cannabis has become known, there are currently 20 states (NJ being one of them) that have legalized medical marijuana and 8 states where it is legal to use recreationally. New Jersey is now on track to being the next state, though the details need to be ironed out. You can get more information on medical marijuana from the New Jersey Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program.  For general news on marijuana in NJ, take a look at’s marijuana site.

There are two main types of cannabis, sativa and indica. Most strains are a mixture of both and some are almost totally sativa or totally indica. Sativa tends to be more energizing and gives what users call a ‘head high’ whereas indica is more calming and relaxing and gives what users call a ‘body high’.

Here is an informative website on all the strains of cannabis and what they are best used for medicinally as well as potential side-effects.

If you ever visit a dispensary, the people who work there are called ‘budtenders’ and should be knowledgeable about guiding you to the right product for your needs and desires.

I can recommend the following two websites on the medical uses and values of cannabis - Medline Plus and WebMD.

The Mercer County library also has a number of books on these topics both for adults and young adults. Several recommendations are:

Marijuana: Examining The Facts by Karen Van Gundy and Michael S.

Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall of Marijuana in America by Emily Dufton

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A Proven Prescription for using Marijuana to Relieve Your Pain and Heal Your Life by Rav Ivker

Cannabis by Chris S. Duval

- Gary Calderone,  Ewing Branch