Drug Policy

New Jersey to Allow Medical Use of Marijuana


Yesterday both houses of the New Jersey legislature approved a bill that allows people with specified illnesses and a doctor's recommendation to obtain marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries. The bill, which Gov. Jon Corzine has promised to sign before he leaves office next week, will make New Jersey the 14th state to permit the medical use of marijuana. Unlike California, where patients are allowed to grow marijuana for their own use but distributors must contend with dueling interpretations of a vague law, New Jersey will ban home production while explicitly allowing sales of up to two ounces per patient each month. The conditions for which doctors may recommend marijuana include cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. Patients will not be allowed to use marijuana in public, and The New York Times reports that it will be dispensed "under the strict conditions used to track the distribution of medically prescribed opiates like Oxycontin and morphine"—which, given the experience with narcotic painkillers, suggests that many patients who could benefit from it will not be able to obtain it.

It's not clear where this leaves John Ray Wilson, the New Jersey man who was convicted last month of growing marijuana that he used to treat his M.S. Although the new law would not have allowed such cultivation, it would have made it unnecessary, and it highlights the injustice of punishing Wilson for using a soon-to-be-legal method of relieving his symptoms. Corzine's office said he was waiting for the outcome of Wilson's trial before considering the case for clemency. If that means waiting until Wilson is sentenced on February 5, Wilson may be out of luck, since Corzine leaves office on Tuesday.