BY TOM HESTER SR.
In one of his last actions before leaving office, Gov. Jon Corzine Monday signed legislation making New Jersey the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana.
The new law will take effect in six months.
The measure was one of 56 bills Corzine signed Monday and Sunday, his last two full days in office. He signed the medical marijuana legislation without ceremony in his Newark office. Gov.-elect Chris Christie takes office at noon, Tuesday.
Legalizing marijuana for pain relief is designed to help New Jerseyans suffering from such health problems as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, seizures, muscle spasms and multiple sclerosis. The legislation was entitled the "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.‘'Under the law, a patient diagnosed by their physician as having a qualifying debilitating medical condition will 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 will provide permits authorizing non-profit alternative treatment centers to produce and dispense marijuana for medical purposes. A patient will 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 will be allowed to use a caregiver, courier or delivery option to receive the medical marijuana from the alternative center, and the state will 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 will be able to prescribe it, and physician recommendations will be tracked similar to current law requiring tracking of drugs under the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act.
The law 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.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington also have laws that effectively removed state-level criminal penalties for medical marijuana.