New Jersey Becomes 14th Medical Marijuana State

January 18, 2010
Trenton, NJ -- Patients and advocates celebrated today as the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" was signed into law by outgoing Governor Jon Corzine. The new law provides patients protection from arrest and prosecution for possession and transportation, and establishes state-regulated distribution of medical marijuana by "Alternative Treatment Centers." New Jersey is the 14th U.S. state to pass a medical marijuana law, and the third largest in population after California and Michigan.

"We applaud the New Jersey legislature and Governor Corzine for addressing the needs of medical marijuana patients in their state," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "The passage of New Jersey's law represents the continuation of commonsense health policies and it's only a matter of time before the federal government catches up." In December, Congress lifted an 11-year ban against the implementation of a local medical marijuana initiative passed by the voters of Washington, D.C., bringing the issue that much closer to the federal seat of power.

Although advocates are excited to add New Jersey to the growing list of medical marijuana states, they are also concerned about some aspects of the new law. On one hand, New Jersey is continuing the trend of regulating medical marijuana distribution, which was started by local governments in California and followed-up by state-run programs in New Mexico, Rhode Island and Maine. However, on the other hand, patients are forbidden from growing marijuana themselves and must obtain it from one of six "Alternative Treatment Centers" in the state, thereby limiting accessibility, variety and consistency.

Compared to several other medical marijuana states, New Jersey's law strictly limits the list of approved medical conditions. While those with severe illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis are protected under the law, patients with chronic pain cannot benefit from medical marijuana unless their pain is the result of HIV/AIDS or cancer. Yet, studies have shown that by using marijuana to alleviate chronic pain, many patients reduce or eliminate their reliance on harmful and addictive pain medication. Marijuana is used for chronic pain more than any other single medical condition. Advocates also predict that the 2-ounce per month limitation in New Jersey's law will fail to meet the needs of all patients, especially those who cannot inhale marijuana smoke and must ingest it.

Today's signature by Governor Corzine follows a 48-14 vote by the General Assembly and a 25-13 vote by the State Senate. However, behind the scenes, adoption of the New Jersey law was hard fought by patients and advocates who spent years lobbying their elected officials. Governor Corzine approved New Jersey's medical marijuana law a day before he is to leave office. The state is now tasked to develop regulations and the law will go into effect in six months.

Further information:
The "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act:" http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A1000/804_R1.PDF

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