Region & Campus

By Holly Prendergast
January 28, 2010

New Jersey is now the 14th state in the United States to legalize the use of medical marijuana. With this new law, chronically sick citizens of New Jersey may now have a regained sense of optimism towards either recovery or just being able to deal better with their illness. On Jan. 18 Governor John Corzine signed bill S119, which legalized the use of medical marijuana (cannabis) for the severely ill. This bill, along with a few others, were of the last ones that Corzine was set to sign on his last full day as New Jersey’s governor.

Other states where medical marijuana is legal include California, Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada. In 1996, California was the first state to pass the usage of marijuana for medical purposes. Proposition 215 passed with 56 percent in favor of the bill. In California, Proposition 15 states that, “possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a ‘written or oral recommendation’ from their physician that he or she ‘would benefit from medical marijuana.’ Patients diagnosed with any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been ‘deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician’ are afforded legal protection under this act.”

New Jersey bill S119, sponsored by New Jersey senator Nicholas Scutari, is set to take effect in about six months, and in order to be sure that the new law will serve strictly for those who are ill, and will not be abused by those who use marijuana recreationally, only patients who have specific illnesses will be able to obtain a prescription.

Illnesses that fall under S119 are cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease and any other terminal illness if a doctor has determined the patient will die within a year. If any patient is diagnosed with any of these conditions, or fall under the specific criteria, they will be permitted to obtain a prescription from their medical doctor.

Unlike Proposition 215 in California, bill S119 does prohibit any patient from growing their own marijuana.

There have been many patients throughout the nation in the 14 states where medical marijuana is legal who have benefited tremendously from this type of treatment. In cancer patients marijuana is used to reach the part of the brain that suppresses pain, while also stimulating appetite and fighting nausea, and in epileptic patients it has been known to prevent seizures in some patients altogether.

Groups such as NORML-NJ, the New Jersey chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a non-profit organization, have been supporting and lobbying Congress for a long time to help institute laws such as S119.

Although many people are in favor of the new law, there are many people who feel as though medical marijuana will send the wrong message to children and promote crime.

It seems as though for now, New Jersey will continue to move forward with the new law and many citizens hope that new governor, Chris Christie, will move onward and take the next steps to enforce and implement the new law, allowing the usage of medical marijuana.

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Holly Prendergast

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