Friday, June 12, 2009

Medical Cannabis: In 90 Seconds or Less

Medical Cannabis: In 90 Seconds or Less

Chris Goldstein - CMMNJ

On June 4, 2009 the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services committee met to consider medical marijuana legislation for the Garden State and one thing was for sure: The bill would pass committee.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway MD got the proceedings underway by telling the room packed with cannabis supporters : “We have heard this bill at length before. We’re not going to have extensive testimony on various portions of the bill …the bill has I will tell you… there is a favorable opinion of the bill on this committee and this legislation will be moving here today.”

This commitment to medical marijuana on the part of these legislators in NJ was rather refreshing and unique. And all this was generally good news to the crowded committee room.

But the bill everyone on the committee was supporting was one that had changed dramatically. The new version of A804 was something none of the advocates or opponents in the room had a chance to read yet.

"Substitutions” were made by the committee just that morning that took away home cultivation, removed Chronic Pain from the list of qualifying conditions, put forth the new idea of just 6 Alternative Treatment Centers to grow medical marijuana along with a courier delivery system to serve patients and further restricted physician recommendations.

So, to those packed in like sardines sweating away to testify there was an atmosphere of a tempered victory for medical cannabis. But because of the pre-announced conclusion, testimony was then limited to just 90 seconds per person.

Advocates and opposition scrambled to cut down speeches and adapt to the situation. Still some new patient testimony was very compelling like that of Diane Riportella who is dying of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, “ It saddens me and enrages me that I have to spend my last days fighting for the right to use and have access to the medicine that relives my suffering.”

Five of us had planned to testify on behalf of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey CMM-NJ. But the committee allowed just one of us to come forward and it ended up being me. It wasn’t easy to fairly represent our constituency of medical marijuana patients or the issue overall with such limited time. Here's that testimony.

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act now goes to the full Assembly for a floor vote this fall. If it passes, the Senate must have a vote of concurrence. Governor Corzine said he will sign it into law, should it pass.

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