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(TRENTON) The New Jersey General Assembly today passed legislation Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and Joan Voss sponsored to make New Jersey the 14th state to allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana.

Under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, people suffering from conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, seizures, muscle spasms and multiple sclerosis would be protected from arrest, prosecution and penalty.

“I don’t think we should make criminals out of our very sick and terminally ill,”said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “It does not make sense for many of New Jersey’s residents to suffer when there is a viable way to ease their pain. Medical marijuana can alleviate a lot of suffering, and there is no evidence that legalizing it for medical use increases overall drug use.”

“No one with a debilitating medical condition should be denied an effective form of treatment if there’s one that exists,” said Voss (D-Bergen). “Marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for many patients suffering from painful conditions, and with this law we would ensure that only a physician is prescribing this to offer relief from pain. That is a moral and common sense approach.”

Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have laws that effectively removed state-level criminal penalties for medical marijuana.

Under the bill (S-119/A-804) a patient diagnosed by their doctor as having a qualifying debilitating medical condition would be allowed to receive medical marijuana, with a limit on the amount that can be accessed in one month, with approval from a physician through a state registry system.

The state would provide permits authorizing non-profit alternative treatment centers to produce and dispense marijuana for medical purposes. A patient would only be able to register at one alternative center at a time and would have to use the prescription within one month of it being written.

Patients would be allowed to use a caregiver, courier or delivery option to receive the medical marijuana from the alternative center, and the state would have to license at least two non-profit centers in each of the state’s north, central and south regions.

Only qualified doctors with ongoing responsibility for the ongoing treatment of the condition triggering the need for medical marijuana would be able to prescribe it, and physician recommendations would be tracked similar to current law requiring tracking of drugs under the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act.

“This is a humanitarian effort that will protect from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people with a medical need to use marijuana,” Gusciora said.

he bill continues to prohibit operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, train, motorboat or heavy equipment while under the influence of marijuana, or smoking marijuana in a school bus or other form of public transportation, on any school grounds, in any correctional facility or at any public park, public beach, public recreation center or youth center.

It also states that nothing in it should be construed to require a government medical assistance program or private health insurer to reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana, or an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana.

“This bill does not condone marijuana use for nonmedical purposes, nor should it be construed to supersede legislation prohibiting persons from engaging in conduct that endangers others,” Voss said. “This doesn’t make marijuana rampant in society. Medical marijuana would be a last resort when all other drugs do not work.”

The measure passed the full Assembly — 48-16-1.

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