Hot Topic (3/2): Medical Marijuana - Legalize it or not?
Patients suffering from cancer, AIDS and other chronic or debilitating illnesses could use marijuana medicinally under a bill passed by the state Senate this afternoon.
New Jersey would become the 14th state to have a medical marijuana law, which would allow patients to keep six marijuana plants and one ounce for personal use.
State Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Linden, said the legislation he sponsored was as "an avenue of last resorts'' for patients suffering from nausea, chronic pain, wasting syndrome and other ailments.
"This is not the legalization of marijuana for recreational use,'' Scuteri said. "We're not talking about thrill seekers and drug addicts here.''
Physicians would diagnose a patient as having a debilitating medical condition. The patient would then obtain a photo registry card issued by the state Department of Health and Senior Services so they could obtain marijuana from an alterative medicine center.
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Cresskill, was among several Republicans who opposed the bill, claiming it was written too broadly. Cardinale said he didn't object to the concept, but said that "a very small percentage'' of users in states that allow medical marijuana are patients the law is intended to aid.
"Moderate use of marijuana causes brain cells to die,'' Cardinale said. "That's why the federal government made marijuana forbidden.''
After the voting Monday, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said she supported it because it could give relief to chronically ill patients who were not benefiting from pain-relief prescriptions.
Weinberg noted that this weekend was the 10th anniversary of her husband's death following a long illness. Hospice nurses provided morphine, but her husband wasn't able to remain conscious, she Weinberg, D-Teaneck.
"To get relief and still be able to communicate would have been much better,'' she said.
Opponents of the measure vowed to fight the proposal in the Assembly.
The bill passed 22 to 16, mostly along partisan lines. Five Republicans voted for it. Two Essex County senators abstained from voting.