Sunday, September 19, 2010

Op Ed: New Jersey must protect medical marijuana patients from conflicting state, federal laws

Sunday, September 12, 2010

During the medical marijuana stakeholders' meeting at the New Jersey State Museum auditorium last month, it was openly stated that the federal government's policy on marijuana was a delusion.

A delusion is a fixed, false belief.

That the federal government's marijuana policy is fixed is quite clear -- it has not changed in 40 years. Marijuana was determined by Congress to be a Schedule I drug when it passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. A Schedule I drug has "no accepted medical uses in the United States," and is "unsafe for use even under medical supervision." The federal government's position on marijuana is also demonstrably false.

The presidential Shafer Commission determined, in 1972, after two years of study, that marijuana was improperly classified as a Schedule I drug. The federal government did not change its position. In 1988, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Judge Francis L. Young found, after two years of expert testimony, that marijuana was improperly classified as a Schedule I drug and should be rescheduled so that doctors could prescribe it. The federal government did not change its position. Since 1996, 14 states and the District of Columbia have approved laws recognizing accepted medical uses for marijuana. As a result of these laws, thousands of licensed physicians have recommended marijuana for hundreds of thousands of patients who suffer from a wide variety of ailments. Scores of national and state health-care organizations, such as the American Nurses Association and the American College of Physicians, have endorsed medical marijuana. The federal government still considers every use of marijuana that is permitted by these states and the District of Columbia to be illegal and punishable by a fine and imprisonment.

There is an entirely new field of medical science emerging with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. This is a system of receptors that exist in every organ of the human body that interacts with marijuana's molecular components. This system, discovered in the 1980s, gives a scientific explanation for marijuana's ability to affect such a wide range of symptoms, diseases and medical conditions. Despite this large and growing body of scientific evidence of marijuana's accepted medical uses in the U.S., the federal government refuses to even consider changing its position.

Marijuana is a remarkably safe drug. It is impossible to have a fatal overdose -- no one has ever died from the effects of marijuana alone. It is safer than many over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin or acetaminophen, both of which have caused fatalities. Every day, physicians prescribe narcotics and amphetamines -- drugs that are far more dangerous and addictive than marijuana. The DEA's Judge Young found marijuana to be the "safest therapeutically active substance known to man." It is insane to think that marijuana is not safe for use under medical supervision.

The federal government's position on marijuana can only be called a delusion. It is a fixed, false belief that no amount of logic, evidence or science can overcome. Generally, delusions hurt only the deluded one. In this case, countless patients throughout America are suffering needlessly because of the federal government's cruel, inhumane and irrational position that marijuana is a Schedule I drug.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, recently introduced a resolution into the New Jersey Legislature that urges Gov. Chris Christie to support and advocate for passage of H.R. 2835 (, the federal Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. H.R. 2835 will provide important legal protection for suffering patients, their caretakers and medical marijuana suppliers in New Jersey and in other states where the use of medical marijuana is permitted. H.R. 2835 will forbid the federal government from prohibiting or restricting medical marijuana programs in any medical marijuana state. H.R. 2835 would also transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs are still strictly controlled by the state, but they are available in pharmacies by prescription, and it is much easier to conduct scientific research on them.

"We need to be sure that New Jerseyans who comply with our medical marijuana law are not at risk of being harassed, arrested or prosecuted by federal law-enforcement officials," said Sen. Scutari. The senator was the prime sponsor of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine in January. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is currently writing regulations to implement that law.

By supporting the resolution, legislators and the governor are given the opportunity to resolve the problems that result from conflicting federal and state policies toward medical marijuana. They also have the chance to stand up for our patients by removing the stigma of federal criminalization of legitimate medical marijuana patients. They can change a delusional federal policy and restore a measure of sanity to our nation's drug laws.

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey Inc. (

The Times of Trenton Op-Ed

No comments:

Post a Comment