MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Proposed bill cost-effective

January 01, 2008

Jim Miller, OpEd, Asbury Park Press (NJ)

About 1.4 million New Jerseyans lack health care coverage and our governor says we can't afford the solution. ("New Jersey eyes other states as it weighs health care coverage," Dec. 24.) Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, has been working on a plan that would require all state residents to have health care coverage that could cost the state $1 billion but we don't have the money to implement it right now.

There is another health care proposal that sat on Vitale's desk this legislative session. As chairman of the Senate Health Committee, he refused to post it for a floor vote. It's the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The program's cost would have been negated by the registration fees charged to participants. It would have cost the state virtually nothing. It would have saved New Jersey money in other areas. Not only is the proposed bill financially feasible, it would have eased the suffering of so many seriously ill and dying residents.

On a radio call-in show during his campaign, Gov. Corzine told me he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk. He met my wife, Cheryl, shortly before she died and listened to her virtually beg for such a bill to be passed, telling him how it would be a great help to her. Considering that she couldn't move her arms or legs because of 32 years of multiple sclerosis, Corzine should have had the good instincts to believe she was telling him the truth when she said marijuana relieved her pain and spasticity better than the $200,000 in "legal" drugs the state's prescription program was willing to pay for her to have.

This proposed law will be swept off the table at the end of this session, and with it the hopes of thousands of sick and dying, clandestine medical marijuana patients. We failed to help those we could afford to help, then denied them an explanation. That is adding insult to injury in the most literal of ways. The sad irony is that as much as Vitale's mandatory health coverage plan will cost the state, it will not help people like Cheryl.

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