The California Assembly's public safety committee voted 4-3 yesterday in favor of a bill that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. Although the bill likely won't go anywhere (it will miss a deadline to reach the full floor for a vote), this is the first time a statewide committee has approved such a measure and it's a sure sign that attitudes are changing in California and across the country.
The news came a day after New Jersey became the 14th state to approve marijuana for medicinal use. Gov. Jon Corzine says he'll sign the bill into law before he leaves office this week.
The momentum toward marijuana legalization continues to grow. On Monday, activists filed a petition in Washington state that will put full legalization on the ballot before voters in November.
A poll this week in California found 84 percent of the state in favor of legalizing marijuana, and a study conducted by the legislature found that taxing marijuana $50 an ounce would raise about $1 billion for the state.
It was a rare piece of good news for those suffering from such diseases as cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and muscular dystrophy. The New Jersey Legislature on Monday legalized medically prescribed marijuana, and Gov. Jon Corzine has promised to sign the bill before leaving office next week.
As one woman suffering from multiple sclerosis cheered after the vote, “I’m in heaven. It means I am no longer a criminal in the State of New Jersey.”
New Jersey’s legislature passed a bill yesterday to legalize medical marijuana, and Gov. Jon Corzine has said he’ll sign it into law before leaving office next week.
Marijuana is now legal for some patients in more than a dozen states. But, at least based on the Jersey bill, the rules seem to be getting stricter as legalization spreads.
Medical marijuana will be limited to certain patients — people whose prognosis gives them less than a year to live, or those with specific symptoms resulting from certain diseases, such as AIDS, cancer and Crohn’s. (The bill also allows the state health department to add other diseases to the list.)
California — where doctors have wide latitude to prescribe marijuana for patients, and pot dispensaries have proliferated in some counties — seemed to serve as a cautionary tale for New Jersey.
New Jersey is set become the 14th state in the nation to allow medical marijuana, under a bill approved today by legislators that has the support of Gov. Corzine.
Corzine is expected to sign the bill within the next several days, during his last week as governor. The law would go into effect six months after it is enacted.
The approval of the bill marks a milestone for advocates who have worked for years to legalize the medical use of marijuana in New Jersey.
Last February, the state Senate approved a medical-marijuana bill with bipartisan support. But after critics raised concerns that that bill could allow marijuana to become too readily available, sponsors of the bill tightened up the restrictions.
The Assembly voted in favor of the bill 48-14, while the Senate voted 25-13.
"I don't think we should make criminals out of our very sick and terminally ill," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer), a prime sponsor of the bill. "It does not make sense for many of New Jersey's residents to suffer when there is a viable way to ease their pain."
Gusciora (D., Mercer) said New Jersey's would be the strictest medical marijuana law in the nation.
Under the bill, people with "debilitating medical conditions," including severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cancer or terminal illness, would be eligible to take medical marijuana, which would be available through for-profit and nonprofit alternative treatment centers throughout the state. Patients would be limited to two ounces of marijuana every 30 days.
A worker at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic prepares packets of marijuana buds for sale in San Francisco. Credit: AP Photo
New Jersey legislators are scheduled to vote Monday on a bill that could legalize medical marijuana in New Jersey. Gov. Jon Corzine has already said he'd sign such legislation if it crossed his desk.
Those who support they bill say its passage would be a victory for people battling chronic pain and illness.
"It has been heartbreaking to see the patients who need this medication struggling and in pain waiting for the legislature to offer relief," says Meagan Johnson, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey.
"For the sake of these patients and their families, we need final approval of this bill."
Those who oppose the bill say physicians groups are worried about the reliability of scientific evidence that medical marijuana is effective.
A mistrial was declared today after jurors in Morristown said they could not reach a verdict in the case of a California trucker accused of having $516,000 worth of marijuana in his rig when he was stopped on Route 80 last year.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Manahan declared the mistrial after jurors had deliberated for 12 hours over 2 1/2 days. The panel sent Manahan a note today saying they were hopelessly deadlocked and could not come to a decision against Michael Daley of Oakland, Calif.
Legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey: What life will be like in the marijuana Garden State
A medical marijuana patient at right smells cannabis at Coffeeshop Blue Sky, a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. There has been a growing public sentiment towards legalizing marijuana in the state of California. Credit: MCT
The latest reports out of Trenton are that by the time the current governor leaves office, New Jersey is likely to have a law authorizing medical marijuana. So on a recent trip to California I decided to check out a marijuana clinic to see what the future will be like.
I was amazed at what I witnessed when I first walked in the door of the clinic on a downtown street in Oakland. The proponents of medical marijuana argue that those who need it are often suffering from dreadful, debilitating diseases. So I felt great sympathy for the patients as I watched them walk into the back room of the clinic to get their prescriptions filled. I could only imagine the agony these poor, unfortunate souls must have been experiencing.
New Jersey is poised to become the next state to allow residents to use marijuana, when recommended by a doctor, for relief from serious diseases and medical conditions.
The state Senate has approved the bill and the state Assembly is expected to follow. The legislation would then head to the governor's office for his signature.
Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democrat who lost his re-election bid last month, has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk before he leaves office in January. It would likely be one of Mr. Corzine's last acts before relinquishing the job to Republican Chris Christie.
Mr. Christie has indicated he would be supportive of such legislation, but had concerns that one draft of a bill he read didn't have enough restrictions, a spokeswoman said.
The bill has been endorsed by the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians and the New Jersey State Nurses Association.