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New Jersey Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

Posted Jan 11 2010 12:00am
Photo by mtstrading via Flickr

Photo by mtstrading via Flickr

Yesterday, the last day of its 2008-2009 legislative session, the New Jersey legislature voted to legalize the use medical marijuana by New Jersey residents suffering from debilitating medical conditions.

The version of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act passed yesterday represents a compromise between the version that the state Senate passed in February of 2009, which Seton Hall Law’s Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy endorsed in a position paper distributed to key lawmakers, and the Assembly version, which included a number of amendments intended to bolster the Act’s already strict safeguards against abuse and diversion.  (The differences between the Assembly and Senate versions are outlined here ; a summary of the changes made in the final legislation is posted here on the Legislature’s website.)   Governor Corzine is expected to sign the Act into law before he leaves office next week.

Among other changes, the final legislation:

  • revises the definition of “debilitating medical condition” to specify that severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, and cachexia or wasting syndrome qualify a patient to use medical marijuana if they are symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, “or the treatment thereof.” The new definition also adds inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and terminal illnesses expected to cause death in 12 months or less to the list of debilitating conditions;
  • deletes the Assembly provision that allowed patients to designate an individual to transport marijuana to them in an emergency, and reverts to the Senate language allowing patients to designate a primary caregiver to assist them with their use of medical marijuana on an ongoing basis; and
  • preserves the Assembly version’s requirement that patients obtain their marijuana from “medical marijuana alternative treatment centers,” i.e., that they not be allowed to grow their own, but increases the amount of marijuana that patients can be dispensed in a 30-day period from one ounce to two ounces.

Interestingly, the final legislation also requires that the system the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety establishes to monitor the dispensation of marijuana for medical use must “serve the same purpose as, and be cross-referenced with” the Division’s system for monitoring the dispensation of certain prescription drugs with the potential for abuse.  This is further evidence that marijuana is slowly but surely, as Fordham Law Professor Kimani Paul-Emile writes, “migrating from the criminal regulatory regime into the public health regulatory regime.”

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