Medical Marijuana Bill Sent To Corzine

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  Medical Marijuana Bill Sent To Corzine

Posted by CN Staff on January 12, 2010 at 06:24:36 PT
By Adrienne Lu, Inquirer Trenton Bureau 
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer 

Trenton -- New Jersey is set become the 14th state in the nation to allow medical use of marijuana, under a bill approved yesterday by legislators. Gov. Corzine is expected to sign the bill during his last week in office. The law, which advocates have worked for years to get passed, would go into effect six months later.Last February, the state Senate approved a medical-marijuana bill with bipartisan support. But after critics raised concerns that the bill could allow marijuana to become too readily available, sponsors tightened restrictions.
The Assembly voted in favor of the bill by 48-14, while the Senate vote was 25-13."I don't think we should make criminals out of our very sick and terminally ill," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer), a prime sponsor. "It does not make sense for many of New Jersey's residents to suffer when there is a viable way to ease their pain."Gusciora said New Jersey's would be the strictest medical marijuana law in the nation.People with "debilitating medical conditions," including severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cancer or terminal illness, would be eligible to legally use marijuana, which would be available through for-profit and nonprofit alternative treatment centers throughout the state.Patients would be limited to two ounces of marijuana every 30 days. Gusciora said the amount was chosen in part because some legislators objected to higher amounts.Opponents said the law could be difficult to enforce and could lead to problems such as more crime.Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R., Monmouth) said the Food and Drug Administration was better suited than the Legislature to decide which medicines were safe and effective."We are taking the science out of the equation," Angelini said, adding that the result could be a "lasting negative impact on our children, communities, and future."In an emotional news conference yesterday morning before the votes, about a dozen patients suffering from conditions such as Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy urged lawmakers to legalize marijuana for medical uses, saying marijuana gives them relief that no legal medication - including narcotics such as morphine - had provided.Charles Kwiatkowski said he wants to give his 4-year-old piggyback rides. Michael Oliveri said he moved from New Jersey to California to have access to medical marijuana legally. Nancy Fedder said she wanted to be able to take marijuana to ease the symptoms of her multiple sclerosis without worrying that she or her daughter, who takes care of her, could wind up facing prosecution.Several patients at the news conference objected to the maximum amount allowed by the proposed legislation, saying it would not be enough to help some patients and should be a matter left to a physician to decide.Elise Segal, a nurse from Deptford, said marijuana had helped ease the muscle spasms and nerve pain from her multiple sclerosis.Other medications, Segal said, impaired her functioning and affected her behavior, and often made her sick. She said she started taking marijuana several years after a friend who works as a hospice nurse suggested it to her.The marijuana provided instant relief, Segal said, and allowed her to sleep."I have never been so happy in my life," Segal said, her eyes tearing up shortly after the Senate vote. "It means I will no longer be a criminal, and I can reach out to my patients and talk about my experience with multiple sclerosis."Among those who lobbied against the bill was David G. Evans, executive director of the Drug Free Schools Coalition, who objected, among other things, to a change allowing for-profit entities to dispense marijuana. He also said regulated medical marijuana would be too expensive.At a news conference yesterday, Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie reiterated that while he supports the idea of medical use of marijuana, he would like to see tighter restrictions."I still think there are some loopholes in the medical marijuana bill that don't make me completely comfortable," Christie said. Still, he added that "conceptually I support the idea of medical marijuana for seriously ill people for pain relief to them; I think that's the compassionate thing to do."He characterized medical marijuana in California as being "completely out of control." Christie said he would prefer to see a strictly defined list of diseases for which physicians would be permitted to prescribe marijuana.U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in October that federal authorities would not arrest or prosecute medical-marijuana users and suppliers who had complied with state laws, an about-face from the George W. Bush administration's position.New Jerseyans strongly support medical marijuana, according to polls. One poll commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, which supports medical marijuana, in 2006 found that 86 percent agreed "seriously ill patients should have access to marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it."A Pennsylvania House committee considered a medical marijuana bill for the first time last month; the Senate has no plans to consider the bill even if it passes the House.Inquirer staff writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)Author: Adrienne Lu, Inquirer Trenton BureauPublished: January 12, 2010Copyright: 2010 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.URL: Inquirer.Letters phillynews.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 

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