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Decriminalization: New Hampshire Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for House Floor

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted February 11 to approve House Bill 1653, which would decriminalize the possession of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana. The measure passed on a 16-2 vote.

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New Hampshire Statehouse
The bill now heads for the House floor. It is scheduled for action on March 3.

Under current New Hampshire law, possession of up to a quarter-ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Under the bill, possession of that amount would be a non-criminal infraction punishable by a $200 fine.

Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston) told the Eagle Tribune the bill would probably pass the House. Continuing to spend law enforcement resources on pot smokers "seems foolish," he said. "It's no worse than tobacco and possibly not as bad."

The measure is supported by the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. Coalition executive director Matt Simon told the Eagle Tribune he was pleasantly surprised by the victory. Similar legislation died two years ago, but now committee members are more comfortable, he said.

"In two years, much has changed," Simon said. "The committee has become much more knowledgeable about decriminalization and heard from constituents."

If the bill passes the House, it still must get through the Senate, and even then, it faces a probable veto from Gov. John Lynch (D) who opposes decriminalization. Lynch vetoed a medical marijuana bill last year. The House voted to override that veto, but the effort fell two votes short in the Senate.

Thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana possession. The most recent was neighboring Massachusetts, which did so last November via the initiative process.

Medical Marijuana: DEA Raids LA Dispensary, LA City Attorney Moves Against 21 More

Thursday was a day of concentrated attack on the thriving Los Angeles-area medical marijuana scene, with the DEA hitting a Culver City dispensary and the LA City Attorney's Office serving eviction notices to 18 dispensaries within the city and filing nuisance abatement lawsuits against three more. One dispensary, the Organica Collective in Culver City, was the object of attention from both the feds and the city, while two Holistic Caregiver dispensaries were the objects of a joint multi-agency investigation including the DEA.

The enforcement actions were undertaken independently, said DEA spokesperson Sarah Pullen. "It's a separate thing, but we were aware of each other's operations today," she said, declining to comment further except to say that search warrants were being served.

Early reports had numerous police and DEA vehicles outside the collective and three people in handcuffs outside the building. Local TV station CBS 13 reported Thursday afternoon that Organica owner Jeffrey Joseph had been arrested, apparently on state marijuana distribution charges.

According to a press release from the LA City Attorney's Office, Organica was also one of three dispensaries named in lawsuits filed by the city for violations of narcotics abatement and public nuisance ordinances. The other two were two Holistic Caregivers locations, which the city said were also the object of a joint investigation with the DEA.

All three dispensaries were also accused of violating the Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Law, which requires the proper labeling of medicines. The LA City Attorney's Office won the first case applying that law to medical marijuana last month.

The alleged behavior of the dispensaries may not have been prudent, but it's not clear it was unlawful. According to prosecutors, "Organica passed out flyers for the dispensary near Culver City High School as classes were being dismissed. Officers have found students to be in possession of marijuana apparently purchased from Organica. Persons stopped in the vicinity of Organica also admitted supplying the shop with marijuana laced edibles and picking up large quantities of marijuana from Organica for delivery to other dispensaries."

All the prosecutors said about Holistic Caregivers is that "law enforcement officers conducted several undercover buys" there and that they recovered "large quantities" of marijuana at the home of dispensary owner Virgil Grant, who had been convicted in June on federal marijuana charges for his seven-dispensary operation.

In addition to the abatement lawsuits against Organica and Holistic Caregivers, the City Attorney's Office sent eviction letters to owners of 18 different dispensaries and owners of the properties engaged in the sale of marijuana by dispensary employees. These actions are not part of LA's new medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, which has not yet taken effect.

Iowa Board of Pharmacy Recommends Medical Marijuana

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend that state lawmakers reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance and set up a task force to study how to create a medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana bills have failed to move in the state legislature, but the board's action could help spur forward momentum. Similarly to the federal Controlled Substances Act, Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no proven medical use and a high potential for abuse. By recommending that marijuana be rescheduled to Schedule II—a potential for abuse, but with accepted medical use—the board acknowledged the herb's medical efficacy. Given the board's initial reluctance to take up the issue, the unanimous vote comes as something as a pleasant surprise to advocates. In May 2008, Iowans for Medical Marijuana founder Carl Olsen petitioned the board to reschedule marijuana, arguing that the evidence did not support its classification as Schedule I. The board rejected that request, and Olsen, three plaintiffs, and the ACLU of Iowa sued to force it to reconsider. (See the filings in the case here). Last year, a Polk County judge ordered the board to take another look at the matter. The board again declined to reclassify marijuana, but did agree to a series of four public hearings. It was after those hearings, which were packed with medical marijuana supporters, and after a scientific review of the literature, that the board acted this week. In doing so, it becomes the first state pharmacy board in the nation to take such a step before voters or lawmakers have legalized medical marijuana. The board's action also puts it squarely in line with popular sentiment in the Hawkeye State. According to an Iowa Poll released Tuesday, 64% of Iowans want medical marijuana to be legal. Now, if only the legislature will act on the recommendation of the board and the will of the voters.
Location: 
Des Moines, IA
United States

Feature: El Paso City Council Passes Resolution Criticizing Drug War, But Only After Killing Marijuana Regulation Language

A year ago, dismayed at the violence rocking its sister city of Ciudad Juárez just across the Rio Grande River, the city council in the remote Texas border city of El Paso unanimously passed a resolution calling for serious consideration of ending drug prohibition, only to see it vetoed by Mayor John Cook. Then, after heavy-handed warnings from US Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and the city's delegation in the state legislature that such a resolution could threaten the city's funding, the city council backed down, failing to override Cook's veto.

With those votes and the controversy surrounding them, El Paso was thrust into -- and helped ignite -- a national debate on the country's drug policies. This week, the El Paso city council returned to the issue when, led by Councilmembers Beto O'Rourke and Steve Ortega, it considered a resolution calling for a "comprehensive examination of our country's failed War on Drugs," and advocating for "the repeal of ineffective marijuana laws" and their replacement with taxed, regulated, and controlled marijuana production, sales, and consumption for adults.

The resolution also called for an immediate meeting between Mexican President Felipe Calderon and US President Obama to address prohibition-related violence in Mexico, rejected the "militaristic" approach of Plan Merida, the three-year, $1.4 billion anti-drug assistance scheme for Mexico and Central America, called for that aid to be tied to strict human rights reporting requirements, and called for any additional aid to Mexico to be aimed at improving the country's "social, educational, and economic development."

"It's up to us to act and make some tough decisions and do some uncomfortable things," said O'Rourke, as he urged his colleagues to support the resolution.

"The fuel to the fire in Juárez is the profits of a black market," said Councilwoman Susie Byrd, explaining why she supported the marijuana regulation language.

But not all the council members were in accord. "We didn't talk about demand reduction. We didn't talk about prevention, and we didn't talk about treatment," said Councilman Carl Robinson, explaining his vote against the resolution.

The public also joined in the debate, with University of Texas-El Paso political science professor Tony Payan refreshing the council's member about the city's historic role in marijuana prohibition. "It was the first city council a hundred years ago that passed the first resolution forbidding the use of marijuana," he said. "One hundred years later we've come full circle, and now we're debating 100 years of a failed policy."

"We've got this war that's cost us billions of dollars in Iraq and there's a huge problem next, right next door!" said El Paso resident Eric Contreras.

"It is time to change the laws because drug prohibition is a failed policy," said El Paso resident Richard Newton, a retired veteran US Customs agent and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "The bottom line is that the reason you have cartels in Juárez fighting each other is to sell drugs in the United States. They sell drugs because they can make money. Get rid of the money and you get rid of the cartels."

Not everyone was on board, however. "Quit calling it our sister city. No one wants a disease-riddled prostitute as a sister," said El Paso resident Armando Cardoza. [Ed: That was rude.]

After debating the resolution on Monday, the council voted, arriving at a 4-4 tie vote. Once again, Mayor Cook swooped in to block reform, even in the form of a resolution. His vote against the resolution broke the tie.

But that wasn't the end of it. The council then amended the resolution by dropping the paragraph referring to marijuana regulation and unceremoniously passed the amended resolution on a 6-2 vote. O'Rourke was one of the no votes, saying that regulating marijuana was an integral part of his approach.

Still, the El Paso city council has gone on record as condemning current US drug policies and demanding a shift to a smarter, more humane approach to drug sales and use. And it has clearly called on the US government to take a smarter, more humane approach to the drug violence just across the river in Juárez.

When asked what is was about El Paso that made it amenable to passage of such a resolution critical of the drug war, LEAP's Newton mentioned the city's unique location. Tucked into the triangular tip of far West Texas, El Paso not only borders bloody Ciudad Juárez, with its daily prohibition-related killings, but it also borders New Mexico, a state that has been a leader in drug policy reforms, ranging from medical marijuana to passing the country's first Good Samaritan drug overdose law to working with the Drug Policy Alliance on methamphetamine prevention and education programs.

"This is a strange city for Texas," Newton continued. "The state is very Republican, but there aren't any Republicans in El Paso. Bush didn't carry El Paso County. Silvestre Reyes has not had a Republican run against for several elections now. I wouldn't say El Paso is especially liberal or progressive, but it is Democratic."

Last year, Mayor Cook and Congressman Reyes pulled the plug on the resolution, but there is no sign yet that we will see a repeat this year. That would be progress, even if O'Rourke lost his marijuana regulation language. And he and the rest of the council still have three years to make up for city council's 1913 vote to criminalize marijuana. The city was a leader then; it can be a leader once again, only this time in the right direction.

Marijuana: No More Possession Prosecutions in Seattle, New City Attorney Says

Seattle's new city attorney has better things to do than prosecute pot smokers, he said January 14. City Attorney Pete Holmes announced he was dismissing all marijuana possession cases, starting with those filed by his predecessor, Tom Carr, whom Holmes defeated in November. He said he dismissed two cases his first day on the job, and several others are about to be dismissed.

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Pete Holmes
"We're not going to prosecute marijuana possession cases anymore," said Holmes. "I meant it when I said it" during the campaign.

Holmes' criminal division chief, Craig Sims, added that he is reviewing an additional 50 cases. Barring "out of the ordinary" circumstances, Sims said, the prosecutor's office does not intend to file charges for marijuana possession.

Although voters in pot-friendly Seattle approved a 2003 initiative making marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority, former City Attorney Carr was still prosecuting pot busts. In the last half of 2008, his office handled 81 marijuana-related cases, with Carr dismissing 21 and filing charges in 60 others, including 20 where pot possession was the only charge. In the first half of 2009, Carr declined only eight of 62 marijuana-related cases, including 21 where possession was the only charge.

Holmes' change of policy comes amidst a climate increasingly favorable to marijuana law reform in Washington state. A state assembly committee held hearings on a pair of decriminalization and legalization bills last week -- they were defeated in committee this week -- and a group of Seattle-based activists also announced last week that they were beginning a drive to get a legalization initiative on the ballot in November.

Medical Marijuana: Corzine Signs Bill, Making New Jersey the 14th State

Outgoing New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine Monday signed the medical marijuana bill approved earlier this month by the state legislature, making New Jersey the 14th state to legalize therapeutic cannabis use and the first one in the Mid-Atlantic region. Corzine was replaced Tuesday by incoming Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

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New Jersey patients share victory hug after legislative vote (courtesy Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey)
Under the bill, which should take effect within six months, only patients whose diseases or conditions are specifically listed -- cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, and terminal illness -- qualify to use medical marijuana. The state health department may include other illnesses at a later date.

The bill does not allow patients or caregivers to grow their own marijuana plants. Instead, medical marijuana will be distributed through a small number of state-licensed dispensaries or "alternate treatment centers." Patients or their designated caregivers could procure the medicine at the dispensary.

Ironically, as public support for medical marijuana reaches record levels, state medical marijuana laws are becoming increasingly restrictive. New Jersey's is the most restrictive yet. On the other hand, a week ago it had no medical marijuana law at all.

Feature: South Dakota Medical Marijuana Campaigners Set to Hand in Signatures for November Initiative

In 2006, voters in South Dakota become the first -- and the only -- in the nation to reject a state initiative legalizing medical marijuana, defeating it by a margin of 52% to 48%. This year, they will have a chance to reconsider. The South Dakota Coalition for Compassion announced this week it has gathered enough signatures to put its medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.

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coalition banner
Advocates need 16,776 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. The coalition says it has collected more than 30,000 signatures, far more than what is generally considered necessary to make up for the inevitable invalid signatures.

The coalition had planned to turn the signatures in to the South Dakota secretary of state Wednesday, but icy highways forced a change of plans. Now, organizers will make the 200-mile trip from Sioux Falls to the state capital in Pierre Monday, providing roads are passable.

The initiative, which was crafted with the help of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC, would enable people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer's disease to qualify to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. So could people suffering from cachexia or wasting syndrome, intractable pain, severe nausea, and severe or persistent muscle spasms. The initiative contains a provision that would allow the state Department of Health to add other conditions to the list.

The Health Department would issue registration cards to patients and caregivers once a patient presents a written recommendation from a physician. Patients could possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana and grow up to six plants, or they could designate a caregiver to grow for them. Caregivers could grow for no more than five patients. There is no provision for dispensaries.

Under the initiative, patients who have registration IDs or other proof they are bona fide medical marijuana patients from other states could use medical marijuana in South Dakota. Schools, employers, and landlords would be barred from discriminating against patients or caregivers unless they were bound to by federal law or would lose federal funding. Similarly, medical marijuana patients could not be discriminated against on organ transplant lists.

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Patrick Lynch
Coalition director Patrick Lynch, a former chairman of the board for the North Central States Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, was driven to support the effort by his own experience and the suffering of others. "I am an MS sufferer," he said. "We're doing this out of compassion for patients, for other people who are going through the same thing I am."

Lynch was optimistic that a medical marijuana initiative could win this time around. "We only got beat by four points last time, and I feel real good about it passing this time," he said. "People are more educated and informed now. The response we've had has been overwhelming. I think this is going to happen."

The South Dakota legislative session just opened, but it is unclear whether anyone will sponsor a medical marijuana bill this year. Repeated efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in Pierre going back to 2001 have all been throttled by hostile committee chairs, and last year was no exception.

"We wanted to give the legislature one last chance to act and save the state the money of holding the election, but unfortunately, our support in the legislature has been deteriorating," said Emmett Reistroffer, chief petitioner for the coalition. "We were really banking on the Democrats, but their leadership has not been friendly."

Reistroffer said the Democratic leadership was pressuring last year's bill sponsor, Rep. Martha Vanderlinde (D-Sioux Falls), not to sponsor a bill this year. "If she decides not to sponsor it, that could be the end of our efforts in the legislature. Vanderlinde comes from the most medical marijuana-friendly district in the state and is a nurse, so it wouldn't hurt her viability, but the Democratic leadership worries that if it got out of committee, Democrats would have to vote on it, and they don't want to do that," he said.

Reistroffer proudly pointed out that the signature-gathering campaign was completely financed by in-state money, primarily from business owners in the state's two largest cities, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. But he hopes to attract some outside funding from national reform groups for the fall campaign.

"We want to launch a very aggressive yet compassionate public education campaign, so that patients and professionals can engage other people in the community in discussion, especially older folks," he said. "We want them to understand that we are interested in the day-to-day relief of suffering, not in getting high. We've been communicating with MPP, and we're hopeful they will help fund advertising for the campaign."

"We were there for the 2006 campaign where we came up just short," said MPP's Steve Fox. "We're going to see how it goes, probably do a poll at some point, and then figure out if and how we will be able to help. They only need two points to get over the top."

One feature of the 2006 effort was organized opposition led by then Attorney General Larry Long (R). Long mobilized law enforcement to speak out against the measure and worked with the Bush administration to bring an official from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to Sioux Falls to campaign against it.

The Obama era ONDCP is unlikely to be out campaigning against medical marijuana initiatives, and Reistroffer was hopeful that Long's successor as attorney general, former US Attorney for the Eastern District of South Dakota Marty Jackley, would be less recalcitrant.

"Jackley has already signaled more progressive drug policies as part of his program," Reistroffer said. "He announced he wants to create a program to send prescription addicts to treatment, not jail. He is already looking at drug policy as a health care matter more than a law enforcement matter."

But Jackley threw cold water on Reistroffer's hopes in a Wednesday interview with the Associated Press. While saying he had yet to have an official position on the initiative, Jackley trotted out familiar law enforcement plaints.

In states that allow medical marijuana, he said, police have problems distinguishing between those who can legally use it and those who "hide" behind medical marijuana laws so they can smoke for non-medical reasons. "It essentially becomes complete authorization of marijuana use," Jackley claimed.

And he claimed that marijuana use leads to violence. "As a prosecutor, I've seen the adverse effects that marijuana can have on certain personalities," the attorney general said. "We've experienced violent crimes associated with the use of marijuana."

Once the signatures are turned in Monday, the secretary of state has 45 days to certify the initiative for the ballot. Look for the battle to begin in earnest then as South Dakota vies to become the first state in the Upper Midwest to become medical marijuana-friendly.

Feature: New Jersey Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, State to Become 14th to Okay Medical Marijuana (Plus DC)

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Sen. Scutari and Assem. Gusciora
New Jersey is set to become the 14th state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana after the state Assembly Monday approved the "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" by a vote of 46-14. Later Monday evening, the state Senate, which had already approved its version of the measure, voted final approval by a margin of 25-13. Outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign the bill.

The Assembly debated the bill for half an hour Monday afternoon before approving it. The debate took place before galleries backed with bill supporters and opponents. It was a similar scene in the Senate a few hours later.

"It does not make sense for many of New Jersey's residents to suffer when there is a viable way to ease their pain," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of the sponsors of the bill. "Medical marijuana can alleviate a lot of suffering, and there is no evidence that legalizing it for medical use increases overall drug use."

The bill will be one of the most restrictive in the nation. Patients diagnosed by their primary care physician as having a qualifying medical condition would be allowed to obtain -- but not grow -- medical marijuana through one of at least six "alternative treatment centers," or dispensaries. But patients would be able to register with only one dispensary at a time and would have to use the written recommendation within a month of when it was written.

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Sen. Scutari and Mike Oliveri
Qualifying medical conditions include severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting or cachexia brought on by HIV/AIDS or cancer ("or the treatment thereof"), muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel diseases, and terminal illnesses where the patient has less than a year to live. Chronic pain was removed from the original bill in an Assembly committee vote last summer, but reinserted last week when the Assembly approved an amendment by Assemblyman Gusciora.

Patients could possess up to two ounces and be prescribed up to two ounces per month. That is an increase from the one ounce possession limit in earlier versions of the bill. Patients would be able to name a caregiver, courier, or delivery option to pick up medicine at the dispensary and deliver it to them.

"This will be the strictest medical marijuana law in the nation," Gusciora said at a statehouse press conference Monday. "We have a good bill that will be very strict and will not decriminalize marijuana, but will allow doctors to prescribe the best treatment for their patients."

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patients share victory hug
Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office, who has lobbied tirelessly for passage of a medical marijuana bill, agreed that the final Garden State bill is very tight, but said it was a start. "There will be some patients who will be able to get some relief," she said. "We think once the program's up and running and people see that there aren't problems, we'll be able to go back and get in some more of our patients."

Also at the press conference were patients Diane Riportella and Mike Oliveri. Riportella was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease in 2007 and given no more than five years to live. Oliveri suffers from muscular dystrophy.

"I'm so excited to be able to be alive and to be here for this moment," said Riportella, 53, of Egg Harbor Township. "Within a few seconds, I'm relaxed and I'm smiling and I go to Disneyland just for a few minutes and say 'It's not so bad, I can live another day,'" Riportella said.

Oliveri, 25, said he moved from his New Jersey home to California in order to be able to legally access medical marijuana. He said he vaporizes about an ounce a week to ease the pain in his legs and back and calm his digestive tract and that he had used it illegally before leaving for the West Coast. "I took every medication known to man before I took weed," said Oliveri, 25. "I knew it was a risk... but it was a life or death matter."

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CMMNJ board members and friends in Assembly committee room, after Assembly vote and waiting for Senate vote (front row: Chris Goldstein, Peter Rosenfeld, John Wilson, Jim Miller; back row: Jim Bissell, Ken Wolski, Chuck Kwiatkowski)
The bill was supported by organizations including the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Special credit goes to the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, the patient and advocate group that has fought for years to get the bill over the top. The group's executive director, Ken Wolski, was pleased with the victory, but wasn't resting on his laurels. "We are grateful that the legislators finally acknowledged that marijuana is medicine and that patients in New Jersey who use it with a doctor's recommendation should not fear arrest and imprisonment," he said after the votes. "But this is really a national issue. New Jersey citizens should be able to travel anywhere in the country and use their medicine without fear of arrest. We are calling on the federal government to reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule, and to protect New Jersey patients who need to travel outside the state."

New Jersey will now join Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in the list of medical marijuana states. Barring any unexpected hitches, that list will also soon include the District of Columbia.

New Jersey Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, Set to Become 14th Medical Marijuana State (Plus DC)

New Jersey is set to become the 14th state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana after the state Assembly Monday approved the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" by a vote of 46-14. Later Monday evening, the state Senate, which had already approved its version of the measure, voted final approval by a margin of 25-13. Outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign the bill. The Assembly debated the bill for half an hour Monday afternoon before approving it. The debate took place before galleries backed with bill supporters and opponents. It was a similar scene in the Senate a few hours later. "It does not make sense for many of New Jersey's residents to suffer when there is a viable way to ease their pain," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of the sponsors of the bill. "Medical marijuana can alleviate a lot of suffering, and there is no evidence that legalizing it for medical use increases overall drug use." The bill will be one of the most restrictive in the nation. Patients diagnosed by their primary care physician as having a qualifying medical condition would be allowed to obtain—but not grow—medical marijuana through one of at least six "alternative treatment centers," or dispensaries. But patients would be able to register with only one dispensary at a time and would have to use the written recommendation within a month of when it was written. Qualifying medical conditions include severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting or cachexia brought on by HIV/AIDS or cancer ("or the treatment thereof"), muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel diseases, and terminal illnesses where the patient has less than a year to live. Chronic pain was removed from the original bill in an Assembly committee vote last summer, but reinserted last week when the Assembly approved an amendment by Assemblyman Gusciora. Patients could possess up to two ounces and be prescribed up to two ounces per month. That is an increase from the one ounce possession limit in earlier versions of the bill. Patients would be able to name a caregiver, courier, or delivery option to pick up medicine at the dispensary and deliver it to them. "This will be the strictest medical marijuana law in the nation," Gusciora said at a statehouse press conference Monday. "We have a good bill that will be very strict and will not decriminalize marijuana, but will allow doctors to prescribe the best treatment for their patients." Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office, who has lobbied tirelessly for passage of a medical marijuana bill, agreed that the final Garden State bill is very tight, but said it was a start. "There will be some patients who will be able to get some relief," she said. "We think once the program's up and running and people see that there aren't problems, we'll be able to go back and get in some more of our patients." Also at the press conference were patients Diane Riportella and Mike Oliveri. Riportella was diagnosed with Lu Gerhrig's Disease in 2007 and given no more than five years to live. Oliveri suffers from muscular dystrophy. "I'm so excited to be able to be alive and to be here for this moment," said Riportella, 53, of Egg Harbor Township. "Within a few seconds, I'm relaxed and I'm smiling and I go to Disneyland just for a few minutes and say 'It's not so bad, I can live another day,'" Riportella said. Oliveri, 25, said he moved from his New Jersey home to California in order to be able to legally access medical marijuana. He said he vaporizes about an ounce a week to ease the pain in his legs and back and calm his digestive tract and that he had used it illegally before leaving for the West Coast. "I took every medication known to man before I took weed," said Oliveri, 25. "I knew it was a risk …but it was a life or death matter." The bill was supported by organizations including the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Special credit goes to the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, the patients' and advocates' group that has fought for years to get the bill over the top. New Jersey will now join Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in the list of medical marijuana states. That list also includes the District of Columbia.
Location: 
Trenton, NJ
United States

New Jersey Assembly Approves Medical Marijuana Bill, One More Vote in the Senate This Afternoon

On the last day of the legislative session, the New Jersey Assembly has approved the state's medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act, on a vote of 48-14. The state Senate will vote on it later today. Outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign it. Look for a feature post on this once the Senate votes.
Location: 
Trenton, NJ
United States

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