Monday was a day of celebration for patients and advocates as the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine.
The new law provides patients protection from arrest and prosecution for possession and transportation of marijuana, and establishes state-regulated distribution of medicinal cannabis by “Alternative Treatment Centers.”
New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana, and the third largest in population, after California and Michigan.
|Caren Woodson, ASA: “The passage of New Jersey’s law represents the continuation of common sense health policies”|
”We applaud the New Jersey Legislature and Governor Corzine for addressing the needs of medical marijuana patients in their state,” said Caren Woodson, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical cannabis advocacy group.
“The passage of New Jersey’s law represents the continuation of common sense health policies, and it’s only a matter of time before the federal government catches up,” Woodson said.
In December, Congress lifted an 11-year ban against the implementation of a local medical marijuana initiative passed by Washington, D.C.’s voters, bringing the issue that much closer to the federal seat of power.
Although advocates are excited to add New Jersey to the growing list of medical marijuana states, they are also concerned about some aspects of the new law.
On one hand, New Jersey is continuing the trend of regulating medical marijuana distribution, which was started by local governments in California and followed up by state-run programs in New Mexico, Rhode Island and Maine.
However, on the other hand, patients are forbidden from growing marijuana themselves and must buy it from one of six Alternative Treatment Centers licensed by the state, thereby limiting accessibility, variety and consistency, according to ASA.
Compared to most other medical marijuana states, New Jersey’s law strictly limits the list of approved medical conditions.
While those with severe illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease are protected under the law, patients with chronic pain are not legally allowed to benefit from medical marijuana unless their pain is the result of HIV/AIDS or cancer.
Yet, studies have shown that by using marijuana to alleviate chronic pain, many patients reduce or even eliminate their reliance on harmful, addictive opioid-based pain medication.
Marijuana is used for chronic pain more than any other single medical condition, according to ASA.
Advocates also predict that the two-ounce per month limitation in New Jersey’s law will fail to meet the needs of all patients, especially those who cannot inhale marijuana smoke and must ingest it.
Monday’s signature by Governor Corzine follows a 48-14 vote by the General Assembly and a 25-13 vote by the State Senate approving medical marijuana.
However, behind the scenes, adoption of the New Jersey law was a hard-fought battle for patients and advocates, who spent years lobbying their elected officials.
Governor Corzine signed New Jersey’s medical marijuana law a day before he is to leave office.
The state is now developing regulations, with the law going into effect in six months.
For more information on the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, click here (PDF).