The New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee gave their approval to a bill that would protect medical marijuana patients from being denied organ transplants in that state. The bill received a vote of 7-2-1 Monday, and will now go before the state senate for approval.
New Jersey flag.
The bill, sponsored by state Sens. Joseph Vitale and Nicholas Scutari, would make medical marijuana recommendations equal to other prescribed medicine. Currently, marijuana - including medical marijuana - is considered an illicit substance and can disqualify someone from organ transplants and other major medical care.
Vitale, who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee, says he wrote the bill in response to stories from other states - like California - where people like Norman Smith have been denied life-saving treatments.
Smith, the feature of a 2011 L.A. Times article, was denied a liver transplant at age 63 because he used medical marijuana. In order to get back on the list, he had to spend six months without using cannabis, get drug tested and even go to drug counseling.
Doctors defended the move with predictable reefer madness, saying that marijuana users often don't take their other medicines and that marijuana users are prone to mold that can be fatal to people with weak immune systems.
"This practice is unconscionable as the patients have followed their doctors' orders and have taken a legal medication to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness," Vitale said in a press release. "Transplant centers should not be able to discriminate against people for using this prescription pain killer."
Scutari points out that New Jersey already has one of the most rigid programs in the nation and that this is just the next step in allowing people alternative treatment options.
"Medical marijuana is a compassionate and humane way to manage pain and provide relief from side effects that often accompany chronic and terminal ailments," Scutari said. "The thought that someone would be denied treatment that could help cure their condition or greatly reduce their suffering because of their legal use of this prescribed drug is abhorrent. We must address this issue."