Drug Law

Time for New Jersey to Implement its Medical Marijuana Law

| by NORML

This past January, after years of debate, outgoing Democrat Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation making New Jersey the fourteenth state in the nation to allow for the state-authorized use of medical cannabis by qualified patients. The measure, known as The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, authorizes patients with a physician’s recommendation to possess and obtain medical cannabis from state-authorized “alternative treatment centers” (aka dispensaries). As signed, the measure was to take effect next month.

But that won’t happen if Republican Gov. Chris Christie has his way. Christie is seeking, and legislation has been introduced, to delay implementation of New Jersey’s long-awaited medical cannabis law by at least 90 days. Gov. Christie has also called on legislators to amend the law — which, as written, is already the most restrictive in the nation — so that patients would only be eligible to obtain medical cannabis in state hospitals. The Governor has also proposed limiting the cultivation of marijuana so that it could only legally be grown at Rutgers University. NORML opposes these amendments, which if enacted, would make New Jersey’s law totally unworkable for patients.

How so? Consider this: For over nine years the University of Massachusetts has sought — unsuccessfully — to cultivate marijuana for medical research purposes. The University even went so far as to file a legal challenge with the DEA — which it won — to gain permission to grow pot. Yet in 2009 the DEA’s acting director overruled the determination of the agency’s own administrative law judge in order to prohibit UMass from growing even a single marijuana plant. It is unlikely that a similar plan at Rutgers University would be met with any greater success.

Further, it is burdensome and unnecessary to limit patients use of medical marijuana solely to hospitals. As stated in 1988 by the United State’s Drug Enforcement Administration’s own administrative law judge, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” The plant’s compounds are virtually non-toxic to healthy cells and organs, do not depress the central nervous system, and are incapable of causing a fatal overdose.

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In fact, according to a 2008 study published by the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, patients who used cannabis-based medicines reported virtually no “serious adverse effects” from the drug over a 30-year period. By contrast, even small doses of the over-the counter drug Tylenol (acetaminophen) has been conclusively shown to cause liver damage and death. It is arbitrary and unnecessary for the Governor to propose impose restrictions regarding the use of medical marijuana that are more stringent than the regulations already in place governing the distribution and use of other doctor recommended medications.

Seriously ill patients in New Jersey have waited long enough for legislative relief. It is time to implement the will of the people and the will of lawmakers.

If you reside in the Garden State, please consider visiting NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to move expeditiously in favor of implementing medicl marijuana law reform in New Jersey.

For more information please visit NORML NJ or the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.