November 24, 2005
Randi Tonoff (OpEd), Courier-Post (NJ)
Medical marijuana is a popular issue. Medical marijuana ballot initiatives have passed in every state that has voted on them.
So far, only two state legislatures -- Hawaii and Vermont -- have had the courage to stop arresting patients without a drive from the voters.
Like Hawaii and Vermont, New Jersey has no voter initiative process for legislation. The state Legislature must have the courage to pass a bill if patients in the state will ever earn protection from arrest for medical marijuana.
This is not a partisan issue; it is a compassion issue.
Many otherwise illegal substances, such as cocaine and morphine, can legally be prescribed by doctors. The same should be true for marijuana.
Many of the legal alternatives proposed by opponents of medical marijuana are expensive, addictive and have too many side effects to be good medicine.
Chemotherapy patients who are too nauseated to eat or swallow a pill should not have to fear arrest if they or their doctors find that smoking marijuana is the most effective means of treating their symptoms.
Ultimately, the decision of what medicine is best for an illness should be left up to the patient and the doctor, not to the government.
When they have their doctors' approval, patients should be able to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest and imprisonment. They should also be able to rely on a safe supply of marijuana without having to resort to the dangerous criminal market.
Our state government should use tax money to prosecute violent crime, not punish marijuana users.
For all of these reasons, New Jersey's Legislature should enact laws that protect patients from arrest and imprisonment for using medically necessary drugs.