LEGISLATOR WANTS TO LEGALIZE MEDICAL MARIJUANA
A state senator who prosecutes drug abusers wants to legalize the
"compassionate medical use" of marijuana to treat pain and other
symptoms in seriously ill patients.
Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Union, the Linden city prosecutor, has
proposed legislation to protect people with debilitating medical
conditions from arrest and prosecution for the use of medical marijuana.
New Jersey needs a law, similar to those in 11 other states, to
attempt to preempt the federal ban on using medical marijuana, Scutari
"As a prosecutor, I see the detrimental effects of recreational
marijuana," Scutari said. "However, marijuana has been shown in many
cases to give people with debilitating medical conditions a chance to
lead normal lives."
The bill would let doctors authorize medical marijuana for patients
with diseases - such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and AIDS
- that cause chronic pain, seizures, severe nausea and wasting syndrome.
Patients certified by their doctors would be issued registration cards
by the state permitting them to possess six plants or 1 ounce of
marijuana. Parental written consent, and monitoring of marijuana use,
would be needed for patients under age 18.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, who is preparing a similar bill,
thinks it has a good chance of passing.
"The ironic thing is that morphine, a derivative of the poppy, is
acceptable for use in last-stage illness," but medicinal use of
marijuana, which is a less potent drug, is illegal, he said.
Dr. Samyadev Datta of Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck would approve
marijuana only for terminally ill patients.
"If I was with a cancer patient who was going to be dead in two
months, I would tell her, 'Go ahead,'Y" and smoke pot to relieve pain,
said Datta, an anesthesiologist and director of the Pain Management
Center at Holy Name. "But somebody who has a bad back but will be
alive for 30 years, I have a problem" approving marijuana use.
Datta approves of the use of Marinol, a tablet form of the marijuana
chemical compound THC. But he concedes that the medication does not
work as well as marijuana because the pill is not absorbed as
effectively by the body.
The Medical Society of New Jersey, which has opposed marijuana in the
past, called for more study of the issue, said John Shaffer, a spokesman.
Ken Wolski, a registered nurse and head of the Coalition for Medical
Marijuana-New Jersey, hailed the proposal.
"We think it's great," Wolski said Thursday. "It's actually a very
conservative bill," he said, noting that it forbids medicinal
marijuana use in prisons, public parks and beaches, and while driving.
States that have authorized medicinal marijuana use with doctor
approval are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine,
Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.