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Medical Marijuana Act Signed Into Law: Some Chronically Ill New Jerseyans Rejoice While Others Continue to Wait

Posted Jan 20 2010 12:00am

Photo by Troy Holden via Flickr

Photo by Troy Holden via Flickr

As expected, on January 18, 2010, Governor Jon Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act into law, making New Jersey the 14th state to legalize marijuana for medical use.  Seton Hall Law’s Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy endorsed the Act in a position paper distributed to key lawmakers in June 2009.

The Act’s backers celebrated its passage with “hugs and tears,” while its opponents expressed continued concerns, including that the for-profit “alternative treatment centers” that the Act will allow to grow and distribute marijuana will have negative effects on the neighborhoods where they are established.  An interesting article by Susan Donaldson James highlights a third constituency: New Jerseyans with chronic illnesses that are responsive to treatment with marijuana but who are not considered to have debilitating medical conditions under the Act.

The article profiles Jack O’Brien of Laurel Lake, New Jersey who was born without fingers and toes and suffers from “crushing neuropathic pain.”  He wakes up to shooting pain in his arms and legs and can only walk short distances on his deformed feet.  According to O’Brien, smoking marijuana is “like having a valve on the forearm, turning it and having the coolness of relief through my extremities. … I try to walk on these feet and I can go four or five blocks, with my wife. With marijuana, I can go forever.”  State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who was a prime sponsor of the Act, explained that while he had empathy for O’Brien and others in his position, the legislature “had to do a measured approach,” citing fears that New Jersey could become another California, where medical marijuana “seemed to be spiraling out of control.”   Assemblyman Gusciora promised that in two years the legislature would “revisit the issue and add ailments.”

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