New Jersey will be the 14th state to allow for the medicinal usage of marijuana. In a 48-14 vote onday in the New Jersey state assembly approve a Bill which would allow terminally ill patients (as well as those with chronic suffering due to pain) to use marijuana; the state senate voted “yes’ to the measure at the tune of 25-13. The Bill is expected to be signed into law y exiting New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine before leaving office on January 19th.
"We have learned from other states' mistakes. We have put so many safeguards and so many difficulties to get it, that you can rest assured and sleep well that this will not do anything but help sick people," said Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union.
Claimed to be the strictest of such laws in the nation, the Bill totes more oversight over the controversial drug (including specifying who qualifies to use it, pays for it, as well as requiring caregivers of those prescribed the drug to submit to a background check at their own expense) as well as requiring the State to issue a report on the law’s implementation.
“We are not adopting the California medical marijuana bill. We're adopting very much a New Jersey, very skeptical, very tight and restrictive law," states Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer. "Criminal laws are still going to apply to even patients who use medical marijuana if they choose to drive. This not a get-out-of-the-jail free card. This is for patients who truly need it and only the most chronic and debilitating diseases will be eligible."
But not everyone is holding hands and singing Kumbaya on this Bill.
New Jersey’s Governor Elect Chris Christie, who as a State senator opposed the Bill both when he first saw it last year and when it got voted on this past week, said he is not yet comfortable with the Bill, but does believe that some of the changes made before the passing Monday did make an improvement.
"Leaving any loophole that doesn't identify a particular disease, any loophole on that is just too broad because any doctor can say, 'Well this particular disease makes me feel as if this person requires medical marijuana,"' Christie said. "We should have a defined list of diseases. We all know what they are. ... When you leave something open ended like that, you leave it open for abuse.”
Other opponents to the Bill fear for the negative social consequences that medicinal usage might bring about, such as the dreaded (and overly dramatic) “Some kid might get a hold of the card and start slinging weed to all of his friends” scenario (which, of course, is not currently happening under current marijuana prohibition laws…). Assemblyman James Holzapfel, R-Ocean, who is also not too crazy about the Bill had this to say, "When you have the profit motive behind drugs, whether its marijuana or anything else, you're just inviting a disaster. We're on a slippery slope, quite honestly. We're handing out free needles, we're cutting back on drug-free school zones, now we're going to introduce marijuana that be apparently obtained by 18-year-olds as caregivers."
The Bill only allows for peoples with debilitating, terminal illnesses (“terminal illness” is defined in the Bill as an illness which will kill the patient in a year’s time) or for those whom suffer from chronic and/or severe pin to be prescribed marijuana, as well as allowing for their primary care physician to prescribe it to them (up to two ounces a month), as well as demanding that the patient’s medical insurance pay for it. The Bill also allows for the establishment of “for profit” dispensaries to come (though it does state that the first six of such businesses will be not for profits).
Once signed y Gov. Corzine, New Jersey would become the 14th state in the Union to allow for the usage of medicinal marijuana- a definite step in the right direction. "… We think once the program's up and running and people see that there aren't problems, we'll be able to go back and get in some more of our patients," states Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance new Jersey. "One of the biggest things is just [the] fear of arrest, the constant fear on top of all the issues their dealing with their severe medical conditions," Scotti added. "But at any time, they could be arrested, they could lose their homes, they could lose their business, it's appalling. And while this is a victory where the pro-medicinal marijuana movement gave up an awful lot in concessions to their opponents, it is a victory none the less for those who would like to see the prohibitionist policies in America finally change in regards to marijuana.
Though it is easy to see why they might not want to look it like that a first. With California and Washington both seriously talking about the complete legalization (and taxation) of marijuana within their states it is easy to look at a restrictive Bill like the one in New Jersey like a loss for the anti- prohibitionist movements, not the rosy colored “step in the right direction” movement leaders might try and sell it as. But trust me when I say this to those of you who might not want to buy in onthese little victories… The more states that allow marijuana as medicine and then do not witness their society go crashing down that slippery slope they always want to threaten us with, the easier it will be to then get them to start talking about total legalization. And once a few states, like California and Washington, take that step towards legalization (and taxation) and the other states see that they are not up in smoke because of it, it will happen faster and more openly.
It is just a matter of time folks…