New Jersey Senate and Assembly Pass Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, Putting New Jersey in Line to Become 14th State to Allow Access to Medical Marijuana

Press Release January 10, 2010
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti at 609-610-8243

Trenton, NJ– New Jersey is poised to become the fourteenth state in the nation that allows access to medical marijuana. Today, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed Senate Bill 119 / Assembly Bill 804, the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act by a vote of 48 to 14 in the Assembly and 25-13 in the Senate. The legislation would allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The bill would also allow for the licensing of centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

Patients, doctors, and advocates were ecstatic that the legislation, which they have been supporting for five and a half years, has finally gained legislative approval.

“We want to thank the legislature for doing the right thing and passing the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. “This legislation will provide relief and legal protection for seriously ill patients and their families across New Jersey. We urge Governor Corzine to sign it as soon as possible.”

Don and Gerry McGrath, who have dedicated the last five and a half years of their lives to supporting the bill, were thrilled that it would finally become law. The McGraths lost their youngest son, Sean, to a rare form of cancer in 2004 when Sean was only 28 years old. The McGraths’ story of how Sean’s doctors recommended medical marijuana and how it reduced his suffering and nausea and enabled him to eat has gained statewide attention. “Words can’t express what it was like to watch my son waste away before my eyes, and then on top of that pain, have to deal with feeling like criminals just because Sean used medical marijuana which helped relieve some of his suffering,” said McGrath. “I’m so grateful that the legislature passed this bill and that no other family will ever have to go through what my wife Gerry and our family endured.”

Senate Bill 119 is sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson), Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex). Assembly Bill 804 is sponsored by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris), Thomas P. Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic), Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen, Hudson), Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen), Assemblywomen Joan M. Voss (D-Bergen), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), Shelia Y. Oliver (D-Essex, Passaic), Cleopatra G. Tucker (D-Essex), Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex), and Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union).

Senator Nicholas Scutari, who introduced the bill as a freshman legislator, and worked tirelessly for its passage, expressed satisfaction that New Jerseyans who would benefit from medical marijuana would finally have safe and legal access to the medication. “New Jersey’s ill and infirmed deserve to have access to every option available that will alleviate their suffering and it was in that spirit that I introduced this legislation. We worked hard to ensure that there are a number of safeguards which will prevent abuses of the system and I am pleased that New Jersey will be the 14th state in the nation to allow patients access to medical marijuana. I salute my colleagues in both houses and on both sides of the aisle who supported this legislation for their dedication and commitment to the health and well being of New Jersey residents.”

The legislation is supported by a coalition of organizations including the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Nurses Association the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

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