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.

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.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Thank You Jacki R. and Governor Corzine!

As someone who legally uses medical marijuana in one of the 13 medically legal states -- to help manage the often-tortuous symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (just one of the conditions Jacki R. has) -- I am thrilled Governor Corzine did his research on the subject.

I get so jazzed when Governors and other elected officials "just say no" to propaganda.

EDS? Another here

And waiting to see what happens, since I'm in NJ.

Huge difference in my pain level and harmful med requirements.

Can anyone give me a pointer on where this bill is? Not up for vote yet? Haven't seen recent news.

NJ Patients!

CMM-NJ could use the help of NJ patients moving this bill through the NJ Legislature. It can happen in 2009, but we need your help. The impact your activism adds to this mission is immeasurable. Help form NJ's patient and caregiver "Commando Squad" (picture in article is THE Commando Squad; Jackie, Gary, Jim and Cheryl). Help Jim Miller and Chuck K. and be voices for legislative change. You can hear the December 15 hearing:
It was a good day in Trenton. Activists kicked ass! Help make more good days in Trenton.



A free country to medicate yourself with what you see fit, not to be incarcerated for it, that defines "free".

here in Iowa I hope to God

here in Iowa I hope to God and your determined hearts and minds, many friends in N J. We desperately need foreward momentum to legalize medical cannabis here in our home. I was rearended and have a broken back and three busted ribs, too. When I smoke pot it synergizes with all the opium the doctor fixes me up with and I use alot less narcotic garbage.

Please help many many others to use a more precise, less body destroyng pain controler, medical cannabis.

Our two senators are in for life and refuse to surrender the war on drugs. when they die I am going to go find theri graves and take my labored piss on tombstones of those who were so self centered and malignant as they.

drug warriors? have you no dignity at all? no shame whatsoever?? your victory is our agony. your honor is our heads hung in shame at Child Murdering Iowa hurting others once more. what? no murder from Iowa DID YOU JUST SAY IOWA DOESN'T MURDER LITTLE GIRLS? WELL, IOWA MURDERED MY LITTLE GIRL. HER NAME IS CRYSTAL LEANN MANKE AND I AM ROBERT MANKE, HER LOYAL DAD.

iowa murdered my daughter with a forced on her load of fda approved killer dope. so, just what was it that the state had for dignity? hope?

Iowa, quit being fools and hicks. legalize medical marijuana NOW

police arnt going to allow this

it will stop thiere overtime and they would have to do real police work besides daddy wants a new truck.and mo guns

Thanks for Your Support

I want to Thank all of the officials, doctors, nurses and crusaders that have participated in this cause. I have muliple sclerosis and am allergic to the traditional ABC drug treatments. I am also allergic to the prednisone they use to treat flare ups. I have tried all the pharmacudical drugs they have offered, including dronabinol, without success and sometimes suffering severe side effects.
As we are finding out about everthing else, natural is the best way to go. I get actual relief, fewer and less intense flare ups, have far less side effects and am more productive with medical marijuana use. I would love to not have the fear of use added to the already insurmountable obstacles & worries I deal with all day, every day.
I also send thanks for including licensed supply gardens in the bill. Those of us that would be eligible for medical use under this bill are really ill. The ability to care for ourselves has been significantly impaired, let alone having the strength & stamina to grow a plant properly to a medical grade. These gardens would also be able to provide specific species of the plant that work best with each individual disease.
Best of Luck to Us All in the Senate!

hemp for victory in the new era...

I'm very hopefull that this matter is taken with very open mind. For New Jersey lets not be afraid of progress making the garden state greener in revenue in a time needed the most .lets look at this in a bright green side.

How can we find out when they will pass this law?

Who can we contact about when they will be voting on this? And what leagal rights do you have in the mean time if you are arrested for possesion but yet suffer from a terminal illness listed as one of the illnesses that is helped with the marajuana?

A cure for addiction

Thank you so much to the Government of the great State of New Jersey, & Thank You Mr. Corzine!

I am a recovering addict and Marijuana saved my life!

Marijuana helps me to have a normal life, but I continue to have to do criminal things to get my medication. What I am doing now is not nearly bad as what I was doing for a good part of my life. I am tired of being treated like a criminal for taking the only medication that I can. Marijuana satisfies any craving that I might have for any opiates.
For me, Marijuana is a "gateway out". Marijuana had absolutely nothing to do with me becoming an addict. I was not a proponent of drug use of any kind before I became an addict. I never smoked pot before I took any prescription pills. I do not believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. I experienced this first hand. How many people can say that?
I rely on Medicinal Marijuana and naltrexone to keep me away from Dr. prescribed highly addictive painkillers.
I became a "doctor shopper" and quickly learned how to sustain my habit. It was easy to do and very toxic to my body.
For twelve years I was prescribed an unlimited supply of codine, percocet, vicodin, lorcet. This led to a high tolerence, and was moved onto stronger meds by the doctors. Oxycontin, demerol, morphine quickly became an everyday necessity.
When I no longer could function I was cut off by every doctor I had been seeing over the years. I went into rehab, where I detoxed.
As soon as I got out I started doing Herion. I was now doing heroin. I was getting progressively worse. The next step after heroin is death. I didn't want to die.
When I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, I surrendered to God's will and went to inpatient treatment. I tried this new drug called Suboxone which has Naltrexone in it and it helped me return to a normal life. With the help of several good Physicians, Pschyatrists, & counselors I got back on the right track.
I continue to use Marijuana and it OK with all of the professionals. It is considered to be part of my treatment plan and now I can get it legally.

Here is some data to back up my story: read on!

Division on Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY 10032, USA. [email protected]

Naltrexone is a theoretically promising alternative to agonist substitution treatment for opioid dependence, but its effectiveness has been severely limited by poor adherence. This study examined, in an independent sample, a previously observed association between moderate cannabis use and improved retention in naltrexone treatment. Opioid dependent patients (N = 63), admitted for inpatient detoxification and induction onto oral naltrexone, and randomized into a six-month trial of intensive behavioral therapy (Behavioral Naltrexone Therapy) versus a control behavioral therapy (Compliance Enhancement), were classified into three levels of cannabis use during treatment based on biweekly urine toxicology: abstinent (0% cannabis positive urine samples); intermittent use (1% to 79% cannabis positive samples); and consistent use (80% or greater cannabis positive samples). Intermittent cannabis users showed superior retention in naltrexone treatment (median days retained = 133; mean = 112.8, SE = 17.5), compared to abstinent (median = 35; mean = 47.3, SE = 9.2) or consistent users (median = 35; mean = 68.3, SE = 14.1) (log rank = 12.2, df = 2, p = .002). The effect remained significant in a Cox model after adjustment for baseline level of heroin use and during treatment level of cocaine use. Intermittent cannabis use was also associated with greater adherence to naltrexone pill-taking. Treatment interacted with cannabis use level, such that intensive behavioral therapy appeared to moderate the adverse prognosis in the consistent cannabis use group. The association between moderate cannabis use and improved retention on naltrexone treatment was replicated. Experimental studies are needed to directly test the hypothesis that cannabinoid agonists exert a beneficial pharmacological effect on naltrexone maintenance and to understand the mechanism.


thank you gov. corzine for signing the first sensable legislation in nj in a looong time.But its not enough. for too long idiots have allowed themselves to be brainwashed into surrendering their own freedoms. ive sat with drunken morons who try to tell me that marijuana should not be legal. then they go and crash their car into a family and kill some kids.How many times have you heard about someone smoking marijuana and beating their wife or crashing their car? almost never. With alcohol it happens regularly. just before xmas 09 a ny cop and his ny cop buddies were out drinking and and driving they struck and killed a woman crossing the road. The order of things in this country has been turned upside down. police run wild with arrogance and and an overall disregard for their job description. Civil SERVANT means cops serve us. they dont tell us what to do WE TELL THEM.In no way should police dictate policy. their job is to enforce the laws we the people decide upon. no more no less. it seems these days people dont require facts to make decisions. too many overweight soccer moms learning their opinions from daytime tv. to sum things up. IF YOU VOTE TO HAVE EVEN ONE OF YOUR FREEDOMS TO BE TAKEN AWAY YOU ARE A TOTAL MORON. This is america. id like to think americans have enough sense to decide for themselves and not have someone decide for them. If youre a parent who is afraid their kid might start smoking marijuana, should it be legalized, heres a clue. when i was a kid it was always easier to obtain marijuana because it was illegal. alcohol was very difficult because you needed someone who was 21. drug dealers dont give a shit how old you are. And i dont think you should count on the law to suppliment your parenting. if you dont want your kid to be screwed up or do the wrong thing be a better parent.

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