Despite the objections of some youth prevention advocates, a New Jersey Senate committee approved legislation calling for legalizing the medical use of marijuana, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported Dec. 16.
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved the legislation after hearing testimony from chronically ill individuals who advocated for the use of marijuana to ease their suffering. “There is too much pain, too much hurt, and too much suffering, and we can do something about it,” said Bill Baroni, a state senator who voted in favor of the legislation.
Calling marijuana an “illegal miracle,” Charles Kwiatkowski, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, helped sway state legislators. “It's not right there are 13 states I could live in, in less pain,” Kwiatkowski said.
Labeled the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, the legislation would apply to patients suffering from a debilitating disease or chronic illnesses that causes “wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, seizures and severe and persistent muscle spasms.”
Patients would need to get a doctor's recommendation and signoff from the state Department of Health and Senior Services to participate in the program and legally possess up to six plants and one ounce of marijuana. The legislation also provides for the creation of “compassion centers” that would grow and distribute marijuana to patients.
Citing concern about the effect legalized marijuana would have on children and young people, Joyce Nalepka, president of Drug Free Kids: America's Challenge, urged New Jersey legislators to vote against the legislation. “Can it be that declaring — by popular legislative opinion — a dangerous drug to be medicine increases use by making it more acceptable?” Nalepka asked the committee.
The bill (S119) passed by a 6-1 vote with two abstentions, and awaits a full vote in the 40-member state Senate.