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Feature: New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill Heads for Senate Floor After Favorable Committee Vote

New Jersey took a step toward becoming the 14th medical marijuana state Monday as a Senate committee heard testimony, then voted 6-1 (with two abstentions) to send Senate Bill 119, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, to the Senate floor, where it could be voted on as early as next month. The state Assembly has yet to vote on the bill, but Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

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Jim and the late Cheryl Miller, with Gary Storck and Jacki Rickert, outside former US Rep. Bob Barr's office (photo from immly.org)
The bill, passed by the Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, would set up a registry program with the Department of Health and Senior Services for people with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, or other diseases that cause wasting, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms. Registered patients or their caregivers could possess up to six marijuana plants and an ounce of usable marijuana.

The bill would also address what has been a thorny issue in some states that have approved medical marijuana laws: the question of supply for people who cannot grow their own. To address the supply problem, the bill foresees the licensing of collective gardens where patients could obtain medical marijuana.

Monday's hearing featured testimony from patients, experts, and drug reformers, as well as written testimony from the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in support of the bill.

It began with an impassioned argument by Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Union County), the bill's original sponsor. "There is no price we would not pay, no limits to which we would not go" to prevent loved ones from suffering needlessly, Scutari told his colleagues on the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

Scutari addressed opponents who argued that the state should wait for the US Food and Drug Administration to approve marijuana. "There is little comfort in the promise of a better drug 10 years from now," he said, noting that the federal government has ignored recommendations to conduct clinical trials with medical marijuana.

Dr. Denis Petro, a board-certified neurologist in neighboring Pennsylvania with a quarter-century of experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology, and marijuana research also testified. He told the committee how he conducted the first American study of marijuana's beneficial effects for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients 1981. It was time for New Jersey to approve a medical marijuana bill, he told the committee.

"There is no doubt that medical marijuana will eventually be allowed in New Jersey", said Kenneth Wolski, an RN, who with Jim Miller, the widow of New Jersey medical marijuana patient/activist Cheryl Miller, co-founded the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey to press for such a bill five years ago. "There is too much logic, common sense, compassion and science that supports it. Logic says that doctors prescribe far more dangerous and addicting drugs than marijuana; common sense says that this issue ought to be decided in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship, in the best interest of the patient; Compassion says that no patient should suffer needlessly; and there is a wealth of scientific evidence that supports the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana," Wolski concluded.

Although medical marijuana legislation had been offered each year since 2004, it had failed to move. But the Senate Health committee made up for lost time Monday, immediately voting to send the bill to the Senate floor with its stamp of approval. Patients and advocates were quick to thank the committee.

"It really brings me to tears, not just for me as someone suffering from multiple sclerosis, but as a registered nurse and for all the people that I've treated," said Elise Segal, who had testified in support of the bill earlier in the day.

"We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office and a tireless campaigner in Trenton. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices."

"I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Dr. Petro. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana."

"I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering," said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?'"

Since California led the way in 1996, 13 states have passed laws providing for the medicinal use of marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. Last month, Michigan voters made it the first Midwest state to join the list. If the New Jersey Assembly acts next year, it could become the first Mid-Atlantic state to join.

East Asia: Marijuana Use Sparks Concern in Japan

Although marijuana use in Japan occurs at dramatically lower rates than in Europe and the United States, police and at least one newspaper are raising the alarm. On Saturday, the newspaper Mainichi reported, as its headline put it, Japan Grappling With Cannabis Crisis.

The newspaper cited a number of prominent recent marijuana busts in announcing the crisis. They have included university students, sumo wrestlers, actors, and professional sportsman, and almost all were for possession or use of small amounts of marijuana. It also cited an increase in the number of cultivation arrests.

Here are the hard numbers behind the "crisis": Since 1998, the number of people arrested for marijuana cultivation has increased four-fold... to a whopping 192, according to the Kinki branch of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's Compliance and Narcotics Division. Last year, police arrested 2,373 people on marijuana charges. By comparison, in the United States, which has roughly 2 1/2 times the population of Japan, more than 800,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges last year.

Under Japan's Cannabis Control Law, possession of even small amounts of marijuana can garner a five-year prison sentence, and selling it can earn up to seven years. There is no formal sanction for consumption, but the Health Ministry pointed out that people smoking together can and have been charged with joint possession. (No pun intended.)

Mainichi relied heavily on the Health Ministry narcs for its information. "There's no need for syringes, and it has this sense of cool to it. For newcomers to drugs, the barrier is low," the ministry said, attempting to explain the plant's allure. The ministry also warned that THC "can cause hallucinations" and that marijuana "is also known as a gateway drug."

Seeking to balance its account, the newspaper also came up with a Nagasaki International University professor of pharmaceutical resources who reprised a few more old canards. "It's more carcinogenic than tobacco, so to say there's no health effect is a big mistake," warned Yukihiro Shoyama. "Repeated use can also cause a motivational syndrome, similar to chronic lethargy, and deterioration of memory."

And if that weren't bad enough, the ministry narcs emphasized the dangers of getting busted. "Arrest, dismissal, expulsion from school... With the risk of collapsing those things that make up your life, isn't the risk of smoking cannabis too high? Think it over, and you should know the answer," said one investigator.

It looks like it's time for a Japanese NORML affiliate.

Europe: Leading Dutch Bank Shuns Cannabis Coffee Shop Accounts

In yet another sign of the cross-currents buffeting the Netherlands' cannabis industry, a leading Dutch bank announced it was closing the accounts of people who owned coffee shops. The move comes as Dutch social conservatives, including members of the governing coalition, are making increasingly loud noises about criminality in the supply of cannabis to the coffee shops.

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Postbank logo
Postbank announced the move last Friday. Part of the Dutch financial services giant ING Group, the Postbank has some 7.5 million private account holders and provides current and savings accounts, loans, mortgages, insurance, investments and pensions, making it one of the largest providers of financial services in the country. Postbank has no branches, but some services are available at post offices, and otherwise operates completely through land mail and telephone and electronic banking.

A bank spokesman said that facilitating the marijuana and hashish trade can no longer be considered responsible. In addition to closing existing accounts, the bank will now screen new customers to ensure they are not involved in the cannabis business.

Under Dutch practice for the past three decades, marijuana sales and consumption remains technically illegal, but tolerated in practice through the licensed coffee shop system. But the Dutch system does not provide for a legal source of supply to the coffee shops, thus providing an opening for organized crime groups to get involved.

The move by Postbank sparked an angry response from the coffee shop trade association, the Cannabis Retailers Union. The group condemned the bank for what it called a hypocritical and moralistic crusade. The retailers noted that the bank is not canceling loans or mortgages made to people in the trade because that could impact its bottom line.

Report Review: New Federal Drug Threat Assessment Finds Prohibition Greatest Drug-Related Menace

Well, not in so many words. But anyone reading between the lines of the National Drug Intelligence Center's National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 could easily come to that conclusion. The annual report from the Justice Department fiefdom based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with its thoroughly inside-the-box approach to the harms associated with drug policy, does not look at the data it is reporting and see the obvious, but its conclusions that violent drug trafficking organizations and street-level drug retail gangs are the gravest "drug threats" to America beg the question of why.

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According to the 2009 report: "Mexican DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States. The influence of Mexican DTOs over domestic drug trafficking is unrivaled. In fact, intelligence estimates indicate a vast majority of the cocaine available in US drug markets is smuggled by Mexican DTOs across the US-Mexico border. Mexican DTOs control drug distribution in most US cities, and they are gaining strength in markets that they do not yet control."

Following close on the heels of the bloody cartels -- 5,000 have been killed in Mexico's prohibition-related violence this year -- are the cartel wannabes: "Violent urban gangs control most retail-level drug distribution nationally, and some have relocated from inner cities to suburban and rural areas. Moreover, gangs are increasing their involvement in wholesale-level drug distribution, aided by their connections with Mexican and Asian DTOs."

While the violence of the cartels and the gangs is deplorable, the NDIC assessment makes no effort to address its root cause: the regime of drug prohibition. Instead it conflates the harms associated with prohibition (fighting the drug trade) with those associated with drug use or abuse.

That conceptual confusion is evident from the very beginning of the annual report. In the first paragraph of its summary, the report observes that: "The trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs inflict tremendous harm upon individuals, families, and communities
throughout the country. The violence, intimidation, theft, and financial crimes carried out by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), criminal groups, gangs, and drug users in the United States pose a significant threat to our nation. The cost to society from drug production, trafficking, and abuse is difficult to fully measure or convey."

Without pulling apart the harms associated with "trafficking and abuse of illegal drugs," the NDIC is conducting an exercise in futility and propaganda. The harms associated with the growth of powerful criminal organizations thriving under a prohibition regime are an entirely different matter from the harms related to drug use, misuse, or abuse, and failing to disentangle them is a service to no one. Similarly, the failure to disaggregate "DTOs, criminal groups, gangs, and drug users" only strengthens the same skewed view of the results of our drug policies.

In the summary's eight bullet points designed to demonstrate the harm of "drugs," four of them -- cartel money laundering, federal anti-drug spending, the huge number of drug arrests, and the high number of federal drug prisoners -- are a direct consequence of drug prohibition. Two others -- a large number of people seeking drug treatment, and children removed from meth labs -- are at least indirectly influenced by drug prohibition. Many people seeking treatment are doing so because of rote court orders, and many home meth cooks would likely simply purchase their drug instead of cooking it if allowed to do so. One bullet point -- that diversion of pharmaceutical drugs is costing insurance companies millions -- is yet another artifact of a prohibition regime, or at least one where access to desired drugs is so restricted that diversion occurs.

The final bullet point -- some 35 million Americans used an illicit drug (or a licit drug illicitly) -- is essentially meaningless without indicating in some way just how those people were actually harmed by using those drugs. But that is typical of a mindset that measures success in drug policy solely by reducing drug use instead of looking at the bigger picture.

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NDIC could have attempted to quantify the harms of drug abuse, for instance by looking at lost work days, or the early onset of disease, or other measures, but it didn't.

Such an attitude is also apparent in the report's blunt ranking of the leading threats by drug: "Cocaine is the leading drug threat to society. Methamphetamine is the second leading drug threat, followed by marijuana, heroin, pharmaceutical drugs, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy) respectively."

Given that marijuana is almost universally understood to be one of the least harmful psychoactive substances known to man (see Professor David Nutt's "rational scale" here), marijuana's role as a leading drug threat -- ahead of heroin and pharmaceuticals! -- can only be attributed to its widespread popularity. Again, instead of demonstrating specific harms associated with marijuana consumption, the report simply assumes that marijuana use generates harm.

By NDIC standards, some progress is being made in combating the drug scourge. The report cites declining cocaine availability and purity in some US markets, and a decrease in domestic meth production (although it warns of a looming increase). But even where NDIC can point to successes, it either misses the costs of waging the drug war or conflates them with the harms of drug use.

And with marijuana in particular, it cannot even claim success. Despite record plant seizures and marijuana arrests last year: "Marijuana availability is high throughout the United States. Outdoor cultivation is going through the roof, thanks in part, the report says, to Mexican DTOs expanding into US public lands, and indoor cultivation has increased "because of high profit margins and seemingly reduced risk of law enforcement detection."

What the National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 shows us is that we are continuing to wage a futile struggle to suppress drug use at a great cost to our society. In failing to disentangle and disaggregate the social ills resulting from our prohibitionist drug policies from the social ills resulting from drug use, it is business as usual. But what do we expect from a drug war bureaucracy motivated mainly by inertia and the imperative of preserving next year's budget?

Press Release: Sacramento Becomes 48th California County to Adopt Medical Marijuana ID Card Program

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
DECEMBER 16, 2008

Sacramento Becomes 48th California County to Adopt Medical Marijuana ID Card ProgramCounty Was Third Largest Without State-Mandated System

CONTACT: Aaron Smith, MPP California policy director, 707-291-0076

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors decided today to adopt a medical marijuana identification card system, 4 to 1, making it the 48th county to adopt plans to comply with a requirement of a 2003 state law.

    By giving patients the option of obtaining cards identifying them as qualified medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers will be able to quickly discern whether they are operating within the law, sparing taxpayers the burden of costly, time-consuming false arrests, advocates said.

    The only counties larger than Sacramento that have yet to obey the law requiring a medical marijuana I.D. card program are San Diego and San Bernardino. Those two counties have challenged the program in court three times, all of which have failed. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has announced its intention to make a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Meanwhile, Ventura County became the last in Southern California – other than San Diego and San Bernardino – to implement a medical marijuana I.D. card program Monday.

    "The decision today signals the beginning of a new an era for California's medical marijuana law,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It should now be crystal clear to all state and local officials that it's their duty to carry out state law and the will of the voters – regardless of their personal opinion on this issue."

    Patients hailed the Sacramento board's vote as a boon for medical marijuana patients and law enforcement alike.

    "By choosing to offer medical marijuana I.D. cards, the supervisors aren't just demonstrating their respect for the law and the will of the voters," said Candice Works, a Sacramento medical marijuana patient and former substance abuse counselor with Kienböck's disease, a rare and painful bone condition. "They're also showing they care about protecting patients from false arrest and saving our police from wasting time investigating law abiding patients. It's in everybody's interest to ensure our medical marijuana program functions as smoothly as possible, and that's what the I.D. card program does."

    With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
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United States

When it Comes to Marijuana Laws, Obama’s Website Should be Called Same.gov

Did anyone notice how the marijuana legalization question was ranked #1 on Obama’s Change.gov site, but he answered the question 4th? Not only did Obama’s team fail to explain the "no" answer, but they didn’t even honor the 1st place popularity rank the question earned when it drew the most votes from the public.

There’s nothing surprising about any of this, but it is indeed perfectly emblematic of the profound lack of seriousness with which this issue is treated in our political culture. The marijuana question was answered second to last and received the shortest response of all the questions. It’s just not something our political leadership wants to talk about. There is scarcely anything less important to them than this and they’d really appreciate it if we stopped asking about it.

But we won’t stop. Certainly not now. Perhaps we appreciate the symbolism behind Obama’s Change.gov campaign even more than its authors do. Yes, we surged at the opportunity to push forward ideas long relegated arbitrarily to the political fringe. We seized upon this new venue for unfiltered political dialogue, an entirely unclaimed territory in which we had yet to be told we were unwelcome. We clutched it in our collective fist, squeezed it with all our might, and recoiled in disgust when it squirted us in the eye.

Sure, we got burned, but we saw it coming. They didn’t see us coming. They never could have imagined that this experiment with online democracy would find us standing at the front of the line. They shook their heads, sighed and joked that this is what you get when you let the frickin’ internet dictate political priorities.

Well, it’s fine with me if they think that, because they’re the ones kissing the internet’s ass in the first place. Will they now retreat to the editorial pages and go back to letting the pundits tell them what the people want?

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Favorable Committee Vote

As a native New Jerseyan, I'm pleased to report that a committee of the state senate gave its approval yesterday to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. One of the cosponsors of the bill, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, even represents my hometown. The upcoming Drug War Chronicle will have a feature story on the vote, and Phil actually got a preliminary version of that to me last night, so I thought I would make it available here on the blog. The article will be finalized sometime Thursday, but in the meanwhile you can read it here.

CMMNJ Minutes & Senate Hearing News

Minutes from our Monthly Public Meeting, Lawrence Township Library, Tuesday, December 9, 2008; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Meeting was called to order at 7:15 PM and adjourned at 8:30 PM. The October 2008 minutes were approved. Ø The NJ State Senate Health Committee will hold hearings on the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” (S119) on Monday, 12/15/08 at 9:30 AM in the State House Annex. Let Ken know if you plan to attend/submit testimony. Ken to prepare Press Releases. Members may contact senate health committee members to show your support at: https://secure2.convio.net/dpa/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction... Ø Michigan became the 13th medical marijuana state last month. CMMNJ issued a press release http://drugsense.org/temp/78oTtWM2Mcyv.html & published a letter-to-the-editor (LTE): http://drugsense.org/temp/d9s28IMQbWPM.html Ø CMMNJ sent NJEA the letter: “DARE propaganda about medical marijuana” http://drugsense.org/temp/d8UEdGVs4w1l.html A CMMNJ NJEA member also sent a similar letter. Ø Discussion re: how to most effectively use CMMNJ’s 1100 names of supporters of S119. Ø Update on NJ Crohn’s patient Mike Miceli who was arrested 9/4/08. Mike had major abdominal surgery since his arrest; CMMNJ sent a letter to the prosecutor at Mike’s request. Also, CMMNJ sent a letter to NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram on behalf of MS patient John Wilson who was arrested on 8/18/08 for medical marijuana “manufacture” in Somerset Co. Ø Donald Abrams, MD at San Francisco General Hospital is seeking patients who consume cannabis for a government-funded study. Please directly contact him at 415-476-9554 (x315). Ø Recommendations on medical marijuana for President-elect Obama from the ACLU & ASA are at: http://www.aclu.org/transition/#_Toc212436207 & http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5612 CMMNJ’s recommendations are: 1. Reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule. 2. Stop all federal harassment of medical marijuana patients and distributors. 3. Pass the New Jersey bill into law. Ø CMMNJ appeared at: The Ewing Twp., NJ “CommunityFest” on the campus of TCNJ on 10/25/08; and at the Fourth Annual Medical Marijuana Candlelight Vigil in Philadelphia at City Hall on 11/1/08. Ø CMMNJ has new photos, etc. on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502598656 Ø Ken attended the SSDP conference 11/22-23/08 in College Park, MD on the campus of U. of MD Ø Treasury report: Checking account ($2167.92); Paypal account ($577.58). Fund raising? Ø Web site update: Gary updated web site (www.cmmnj.org) for 12 hours @ $15.00 per hour = $180.00. Ø Lawrence Twp. Library OK’d CMMNJ’s dates for 2009 meetings--the 2nd Tues. of each month. Next Meeting: January 13, 2009 at the Lawrence Twp. Library, from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. All are welcome. Light refreshments are served. (Meeting at the library does not imply their endorsement of our issue.) For more information, please contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648 (609) 394-2137 ohamkrw@aol.com
Location: 
NJ
United States

The Real Reason Obama Won’t Support Marijuana Legalization

Much has been made of the fact that a marijuana legalization question was ranked #1 when President-elect Obama opened his Change.gov website up to questions from the public. In an open vote, the public spoke loudly and clearly that marijuana reform was the very first issue that the new President should address. For our trouble, we’ve been rewarded with the sorriest excuse for an answer that Obama’s transition team could possibly have provided:

Q: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" S. Man, Denton

A: President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Care to elaborate? You see, we all knew what the answer was. The point was that we all wanted to know why.

As frustrating and insulting as it is to witness an important matter brushed casually to the side without explanation, Obama’s answer actually says a lot. It says that he couldn’t think of even one sentence to explain his position. Within the vast framework of totally paranoid anti-pot propaganda, Obama couldn’t find a single argument he wanted to associate himself with. That’s why he simply said "No. Next question."

All of this highlights the well-known fact that Obama agrees that our marijuana laws are deeply flawed. He‘s said so, and has back-pedaled recently for purely political reasons. If Obama’s transition team tried to give an accurate description of his position on marijuana reform it would look like this:


Q: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" S. Man, Denton

A: President-elect Obama will not use his political capital to advance the legalization of marijuana. While he agrees that arresting adults for marijuana possession is a poor use of law enforcement resources, he believes that the issue remains too controversial to do anything about it.


It’s really that simple, which makes our job quite difficult. Any ideas?

Update: Paul Armentano says to keep doing what we've been doing and I agree. The fact that we've provoked dialogue about marijuana reform on the President-elect's website is quite remarkable. The "Open for Questions" feature will reopen for new questions soon and we'll be back to push drug policy reform to the top yet again.

On that note, please be advised that the site we're talking about is Change.gov, not Change.org. Change.org has been linked repeatedly in the comment section below, but that is not Obama's site. It fills a similar role and is worth visiting, but that's not where we should focus our energy if we want to directly confront Obama himself. I'm a little concerned that mixing these sites up could dillute our message, so please stay focused on Change.gov. I will post something when the next round of questions is open.

Press Release: NJ Moves One Step Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 15, 2008 NJ Moves One Step Closer to Becoming the Fourteenth State to Allow Access to Medical Marijuana Bill Voted Out of Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens, Heads to Full Senate Vote Next Patients, Doctors and Advocates Applaud Compassionate Use Legislation Trenton, NJ — New Jersey moved one step closer today to becoming the fourteenth state in the nation that allows access to medical marijuana. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a hearing today on Senate Bill 119 and voted the bill out of committee with six affirmative votes, one negative, and two abstentions. Senate Bill 119 would allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill would also allow for the licensing of centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Patients, doctors, and advocates applauded the committee's action on Senate Bill 119. The bill now moves to the full senate for a vote. "We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices." Senate Bill 119 is sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson), Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex). Senator Scutari, prime sponsor of the legislation, testified before his colleagues on the health committee. Dr. Denis Petro, internationally known expert on medical marijuana, who testified regarding the scientific support for medical marijuana, praised the committee for voting in support of the legislation. "I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Petro, a board-certified neurologist in Pennsylvania with more than 25 years experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology and marijuana research. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana". Thirteen states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. The New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization all submitted testimony today at the hearing in support of Senate Bill 119. "I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering.'' said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?' '' Scott Ward, a 24-year-old diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2006 while training for the Marine Corps Marathon, tried every legally prescribed medicine his doctors suggested while searching for relief from his symptoms, before he decided to try medical marijuana which has drastically improved his quality of life. Ward was excited by the committee's action and hopeful that the legislation would continue to progress to passage. "To say that I am happy and grateful that the majority of the Senate Health Committee voted in favor of S119 would be an understatement. I came here today to fight for the basic right to live a pain-free life; to be able to get out of bed in the morning not feeling terrible. To use marijuana, my medicine, which works for me," said Ward. "The Senate Health Committee's vote is incredibly encouraging and I urge the rest of the legislature to follow their lead quickly so that other New Jerseyans suffering like myself may find some relief." # # #
Location: 
NJ
United States

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