#425 New Jersey Becomes A Medical Marijuana State

Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 03:54:48 -0800
Subject: #425 New Jersey Becomes A Medical Marijuana State

NEW JERSEY BECOMES A MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATE

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #425 – Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Within a few days Governor Corzine is expected to sign New Jersey’s
law, making the state the 14th to have a workable medical marijuana
law. New Jersey will become the fifth state to pass a law through
legislative action.

The New York Times report, below, is just one of many about this
story.

Writing letters to the editor to your local newspapers about New
Jersey’s action may help advance the issue. Contacts for many
newspapers may be found at http://mapinc.org/media.htm

Updated facts you may wish to use are at http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/54

Articles and opinion items are about medical marijuana are being
posted daily at http://www.mapinc.org/find?253

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Pubdate: Tue, 12 Jan 2010

Source: New York Times (NY)

Page: A1, Front Page, New York edition

Copyright: 2010 The New York Times Company

Contact: letters@nytimes.com

Author: David Kocieniewski

NEW JERSEY VOTE BACKS MARIJUANA FOR SEVERELY ILL

Both Houses Pass Bill

TRENTON — The New Jersey Legislature approved a measure on Monday
that would make the state the 14th in the nation, but one of the few
on the East Coast, to legalize the use of marijuana to help patients
with chronic illnesses.

The measure — which would allow patients diagnosed with severe
illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy
and multiple sclerosis to have access to marijuana grown and
distributed through state-monitored dispensaries — was passed by the
General Assembly and State Senate on the final day of the legislative
session.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he would sign it into law before leaving
office next Tuesday. Supporters said that within nine months, patients
with a prescription for marijuana from their doctors should be able to
obtain it at one of six locations.

“It’s nice to finally see a day when democracy helps heal people,”
said Charles Kwiatkowski, 38, one of dozens of patients who rallied at
the State House before the vote and broke into applause when the
lawmakers approved the measure.

Mr. Kwiatkowski, of Hazlet, N.J., who has multiple sclerosis, said his
doctors have recommended marijuana to treat neuralgia, which causes
him to lose the feeling and the use of his right arm and shoulders.
“The M.S. Society has shown that this drug will help slow the
progression of my disease. Why would I want to use anything else?”

The bill’s approval, which comes after years of lobbying by patients’
rights groups and advocates of less restrictive drug laws, was nearly
derailed at the 11th hour as some Democratic lawmakers wavered and
Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie, a Republican, went to the
State House and expressed reservations about it.

In the end, however, it passed by comfortable margins in both houses:
48-14 in the General Assembly and 25-13 in the State Senate.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Princeton who sponsored the
legislation, said New Jersey’s would be the most restrictive medical
marijuana law in the nation because it would permit doctors to
prescribe it for only a set list of serious, chronic illnesses. The
law would also forbid patients from growing their own marijuana and
from using it in public, and it would regulate the drug under the
strict conditions used to track the distribution of medically
prescribed opiates like Oxycontin and morphine. Patients would be
limited to two ounces of marijuana per month.

“I truly believe this will become a model for other states because it
balances the compassionate use of medical marijuana while limiting the
number of ailments that a physician can prescribe it for,” Mr.
Gusciora said.

Under the bill, the state would help set the cost of the marijuana.
The measure does not require insurance companies to pay for it.

Some educators and law enforcement advocates worked doggedly against
the proposal, saying the law would make marijuana more readily
available and more likely to be abused, and that it would lead to
increased drug use by teenagers.

Opponents often pointed to California’s experience as a cautionary
tale, saying that medical marijuana is so loosely regulated there that
its use has essentially been decriminalized. Under California law,
residents can obtain legal marijuana for a list of maladies as common,
and as vaguely defined, as anxiety or chronic pain.

David G. Evans, executive director of the Drug-Free Schools Coalition,
warned that the establishment of for-profit dispensaries would lead to
abuses of the law. “There are going to be pot centers coming to
neighborhoods where people live and are trying to raise their
families,” Mr. Evans said.

Keiko Warner, a school counselor in Millville, N. J., cautioned that
students already faced intense peer pressure to experiment with
marijuana, and that the use of medical marijuana would only increase
the likelihood that teenagers would experiment with the drug.

“There are children at age 15, 14 who are using drugs or thinking
about using drugs,” she said. “And this is not going to help.”

Legislators attempted to ease those fears in the past year by working
with the Department of Health and Senior Services to add restrictions
to the bill.

But with Democrats in retreat after Mr. Corzine’s defeat by Mr.
Christie, some supporters feared that the Democratic-controlled
Legislature — which last week failed to muster the votes to pass a
gay marriage bill — would balk at approving medical marijuana.

Mr. Christie added to the suspense Monday, just hours before lawmakers
were scheduled to vote, when he was asked about the bill during a
press conference within shouting distance of the legislative chambers.
He said he was concerned that the bill contained loopholes that might
encourage recreational drug use.

“I think we all see what’s happened in California,” Mr. Christie said.
“It’s gotten completely out of control.”

But the loophole Mr. Christie cited — a list of ailments so
unrestricted that it might have allowed patients to seek marijuana to
treat minor or nonexistent ailments — had already been closed by
legislators. In the end, the bill received Republican as well as
Democratic support.

“This bill will help relieve people’s pain,” said Senator William
Baroni, a Republican.

Supporters celebrated with hugs and tears.

Scott Ward, 26, who said he suffered from multiple sclerosis, said he
had been prescribed marijuana to alleviate leg cramps so severe that
they often felt “like my muscles are tearing apart.” “Now,” he said,
“I can do normal things like take a walk and walk the dog.”

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor http://www.mapinc.org

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