Winning Medical Marijuana in New Jersey

One of the greatest victories to date for the Drug Policy Alliance's office in New Jersey is its Compassionate Use Campaign. On January 18th, 2010, Governor Jon S. Corzine signed the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," which allows seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The passage of this legislation was the culmination of five and a half years of extraordinary advocacy by Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, patient and family advocates, our coalition partners in the Compassionate Use Campaign, and our allies and supporters.

Each year, thousands of New Jerseyans are diagnosed with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other life threatening illnesses. For some of these patients, currently available medications will not be effective in reducing terrible symptoms such as nausea, wasting, muscle spasms, and pain. Medical marijuana could ease suffering and improve the quality of life for these patients. Thirteen other states had enacted compassionate use legislation and now New Jersey joins them as the fourteenth state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Drug Policy Alliance's office in New Jersey created the Compassionate Use Campaign to advocate for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (S119/A804). The Campaign was kicked off with the release of polling that showed that 86% of New Jerseyans support allowing access to medical marijuana. We released the polling at a 2006 press conference featuring television personality, New York Times best-selling author and medical marijuana patient Montel Williams. The press conference also featured Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act sponsor, Senator Nicholas Scutari, Don and Gerry McGrath, parents of the late medical marijuana patient Sean McGrath and longtime medical marijuana activist Jim Miller, whose late wife Cheryl suffered from multiple sclerosis.

The Drug Policy Alliance's office in New Jersey, patient and family advocates, our coalition partners, allies and supporters fought hard to get these critically important pieces of legislation passed. After informational hearings in both the senate and assembly health committees, in December 2008 we first got the bill passed by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee followed by passage in the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee the next year in June 2009.

Finally, on January 11, 2010, the New Jersey General Assembly and State Senate passed Assembly Bill No. 804/Senate Bill No. 119, the Compassionate Use Act. On January 18, 2010, on his final day in office, Governor Jon S. Corzine signed this important legislation. The Department of Health and Senior Services issued regulations governing the medical marijuana registry program and licensing of alternative treatment centers where qualifying patients can access their medicine. For more information regarding becoming a registered medical marijuana patient, caregiver, or licensed alternative treatment center provider, please review our FAQs fact sheet.

The Compassionate Use Campaign continues to advocate for safe and regulated access to medical marijuana for seriously ill people in the State of New Jersey.