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Lame-duck lawmakers likely to roll medical marijuana bill as parting gift

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

EDITORIAL : Let’s be blunt about the potential benefits of a medical marijuana law in New Jersey: Start with the increase in the number of spontaneous hacky-sack games. Imagine the much-needed boost the sagging paraphernalia industry will get. And figure on the speed limit pretty much lowering itself. On the other hand, we could find our PATH stations flooded with New Yorkers, in a bizarre sort of reverse one-toke-over-the-line bridge-and-tunnel dynamic.

No, this is not a joke. It is what it looks like.

Sponsors of a law that would make New Jersey the 14th state to legalize prescription medical use of marijuana are trying to get it posted in time for a vote before Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office next month.

The proposed law prohibits arrest, prosecution, forfeiture or penalties involving patients who toke the ganja for relief from debilitating medical conditions, as well as the physicians who prescribe it and those who produce it for medical use.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is prepared to issue photo-ID registry cards to patients who been authorized in writing by their doctors to receive the drug. Authorities didn’t say whether the photos would be altered to eliminate red eye. Those who forge, alter or sell the cards would be subject to criminal penalties, even if they blame Mary Jane.

To ensure it isn’t all smoke and beers, both legislative bodies want special restrictions, although neither mentioned limiting the amount of stems and seeds or outlawing shake. Discount coupons for 7-Eleven haven’t been discussed, either.

Because each patient will be presumed to consume all of his or her stash, no one has suggested that lawmakers include bogarting among the list of offenses — though you can be sure some of them will talk forever about very little once they have the floor.

Lawmakers also haven’t said whether someone who shotguns a joint for another patient would be subject to prosecution, or whether qualified buyers could obtain E-ZWider passes to help speed purchases along. Drive-up windows might be another option.

You’ll still won’t be able to pump your own gas, though.

The Senate version permits primary-care physicians to prescribe the drug and patients to grow small amounts of their own. The Assembly’s measure restricts prescriptions to the PCPs (no pun intended). In addition, specially licensed, non-profit treatment centers would dispense no more than an ounce of  marijuana to any patient within a month. One would hope the scales are calibrated and inspected regularly to prevent any kind of fat-thumb hassles. Free Visine samples would also be a nice touch.

Publisher/Editor Jerry DeMarco

Qualifying conditions include epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity or glaucoma resistant to conventional medical therapy; HIV, AIDS, terminal cancer or cancer that results in severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia or wasting syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis; and other conditions approved by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

In other words: You have to be really messed up to be able to get really messed up, while the rest of us can only look on with whatever emotion the issue cultivates in us.

Federal law prohibits the use of marijuana under any circumstances, but states aren’t bound by that. At the moment, mostly Western states, and a few in New England permit medical marijuana use.

The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act must be adopted by the Assembly and then sent back to the Senate, which OK’d it February, for approval of some additional amendments. Three sessions are left for the lame-duck Legislature: Monday, then Jan. 7 and Jan. 11 — good enough reason, perhaps, for those on their way out to try and make a mark for posterity.

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