The nationwide opioid epidemic has affected New Jersey more harshly than other states. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, New Jersey residents suffered 16 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 individuals through 2016, compared to the national average of 13.3 deaths per 100,0000 individuals. Deaths due to opioids have risen dramatically since 2016. More than 3,000 New Jersey residents died due to drug overdoses in 2018. Below explains the new way that New Jersey is addressing the opioid epidemic. If you have already been charged with a crime for Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, or other prescription drugs, the Middlesex County drug lawyers at our firm can help. Call our local Edison office at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation about your drug charges.
How NJ Lawmakers are Addressing Opioids
On January 23, 2019, Governor Murphy introduced new initiatives to combat the New Jersey opioid epidemic. The governor’s 2019 budget has set aside approximately $1 million to address the crisis. The following is a brief summary of the governor’s new initiatives, several of which take effect on April 1st, and how they interact with current New Jersey laws.
One of the new initiatives the governor announced was a revision to the Medication Assisted Treatment “prior authorization rule.” Treatment providers and patients formerly complained that this prerequisite for drug treatment under Medicaid was a time-consuming barrier to potentially life-saving treatment. That requirement will now be removed.
Medicaid will be launching new programs to allow increased access to Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid abuse. The Department of Human Services will be training more primary care doctors to provide Medication Assisted Treatment and will be offering new Medicaid reimbursement options for opioid addiction treatment. The program will also be creating two opioid treatment facilities, one at Rutgers and one at Rowan University.
Medical Marijuana for Opioid Addiction in New Jersey
New Jersey has legalized marijuana for medical use (subject to certain conditions). To be eligible for medical marijuana, a patient must suffer from a qualifying condition—typically an illness like cancer, chronic pain, HIV/AIDs, and a number of others. A qualifying patient must register with the state and receive a medical marijuana card, and the patient must also provide periodic statements from a treating physician authorizing the marijuana use.
On January 23, the governor announced that opioid addiction will soon be added as one of the qualifying conditions that can make a patient eligible to use medical marijuana. This means that patients receiving Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction can also receive medical marijuana, and not just cases where the patient suffers from chronic pain. Of course, you can still be charged with possession of marijuana or intent to distribute if you are arrested with weed without a medical marijuana prescription.
How NJ Police Officers are Going after Drug Offenders
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has stated that, as part of the governor’s January 2019 opioid initiatives, his office will continue enforcement efforts against the drug dealers who have helped fuel the epidemic. He also clarified, however, that enforcement efforts will not be limited to street dealers and drug traffickers. His office will bring legal actions against doctors and drug companies that violate the law by improperly writing prescriptions or otherwise exacerbating the problem through the practice of medicine.
Grewal further oversees two drug diversion initiatives, both funded at $1 million each. The first initiative will allow low-level offenders to receive drug abuse treatment instead of jail time. The second provides funding to municipalities that have a demonstrated high need for assistance in combating opioids.
What to do if You’ve been Arrested for Painkillers in Middlesex County
While all of these steps may help toward combating the opioid crisis in New Jersey, nothing will prevent you from being arrested for violating NJ Drug Laws. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, our attorneys defend clients like you on a daily basis in Middlesex County and across the state. Call (732) 659-9600 to discuss your case free of charge.