HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana Act Passes NJ Panel
Pubdate: Tue, 16 Dec 2008
Source: Press of Atlantic City, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2008 South Jersey Publishing Co.
Author: Derek Harper, Statehouse Bureau
Cited: New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians
Cited: The New Jersey League for Nursing
Referenced: New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


N.J. Senate Measure Would Allow Chronically Ill to Own Six Plants, 1 Ounce

TRENTON - New Jersey took a major step toward becoming the latest 
state to allow certain patients to use marijuana Monday, when the 
Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee 
approved the Compassionate Use Medicinal Marijuana Act by a vote of 6-1.

Elise Segal, who testified in support of the legislation, said the 
committee's vote "really brings me to tears, not just for me as a 
someone suffering from multiple sclerosis, but as a registered nurse 
and for all the people that I've treated."

The Department of Health and Senior Services would register people 
with debilitating medical conditions, which would include cancer, 
glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, or other diseases that cause wasting, chronic 
pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms. 
The department then would issue a photo identity card and allow those 
registered to possess as many as "six marijuana plants and an ounce 
of usable marijuana," according to the bill.

As a result, the person would not be subject to arrest or penalty for 
the use of marijuana. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. 
Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule I, the 
most restrictive class of drugs.

The federal prohibitions will remain, but the bill's supporters said 
the overwhelming number of prosecutions are under state law, so it 
would lift most of the prohibitions.

The bill still bars people from operating a car, boat or airplane 
under the influence of marijuana. It also bans people from smoking 
marijuana on a school bus, public property or beach, or in a 
correctional institute or park.

The bill would also apply to patients younger than 18, but it 
requires a parent or guardian's informed approval.

A late amendment would also allow people to start Medicinal Marijuana 
Alternate Treatment Centers, which would dispense regulated marijuana.

The measure was first proposed in 2005, but Monday marked the first 
time a bill has cleared a state legislative committee. Thirteen other 
states have approved similar measures.

Testimony was a tug-of-war between advocates who testified how 
smoking marijuana can relieve pain and suffering and opponents who 
said the drug is dangerously untested and its partial legalization 
would increase crime and drug addiction.

Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic - who cosponsored the bill with Sen. 
Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, Somerset, Middlesex - said, "I think the 
consequences of not acting is far worse with all of the pain and 
suffering we have heard about here today."

Similarly, Sen. Bill Baroni, R-Middlesex, Mercer, the only Republican 
to vote in support, said after a weekend of consideration, "There is 
too much pain, too much hurt, too much suffering, and we can do 
something about it."

The hearing included Brent Zettl, president of Prairie Plant Systems 
Inc., of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who testified via video on the 
process the company uses to produce sterilized medicinal marijuana. 
He said a challenge in court essentially pushed the company into 
business, but now it covers 30 percent of the Canadian market.

Segal was also one of several patients who told senators how 
marijuana helps them in their fight against illness.

"I am able to relieve my multiple sclerosis symptoms, but I run the 
risk of being a criminal," Segal said. "You have the power to relieve 
my suffering."

Other New Jersey groups in support of the bill included the Academy 
of Family Physicians, League for Nursing, local chapters of the 
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Hospice and Palliative Care 

Opponents of the measure questioned why people would be allowed to 
grow so many plants, how effective any smoked drug could be, and said 
there is too much uncertainty without FDA approval.

Joyce Nalepka, president of Drug-Free Kids: America's Challenge, said 
medicinal marijuana sends the message to children that harmful drugs 
are legal. She also said drug abuse has risen in states where 
marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes.

The committee approved the bill 6-1 with two abstentions. It now 
heads to the full Senate for a vote as early as January. A companion 
measure was introduced to the Assembly Health and Senior Services 
Committee in January. 
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