New Jersey has become the 14th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. The bill, signed into law in January, allows patients with chronic illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis, to buy up to two ounces of marijuana per month at state-monitored dispensaries.
Among the bill’s various restrictive measures, patients are prohibited from growing their own marijuana and from public use of the drug; doctors can only prescribe it for a set list of serious, chronic illnesses (stress and anxiety were omitted as qualifying conditions); and the state will strictly regulate the distribution. In addition, the state will help set the cost of the drug, and insurance companies will not be required to cover reimbursement.
The legislation also authorizes the state Department of Health to issue registry ID cards to patients with “debilitating medical conditions.” Patients with specified diseases, such as cancer, will have to demonstrate severe or chronic pain, nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, or wasting syndrome to qualify. Only patients with a registry card will be immune from arrest or prosecution for marijuana use. The bill is expected to take effect this summer.
Other states that permit medical use of marijuana are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.