Monday, November 1, 2010

Thoughts on Prop 19 from CMMNJ

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey (CMMNJ) is neutral on Prop 19, the initiative that will be voted on in California tomorrow to legalize marijuana for recreational and religious purposes. CMMNJ neither supports nor opposes Prop 19.

The mission of CMMNJ is to educate the public about the benefits of medical marijuana for patients who are under the care of licensed physicians. Marijuana is a safe, effective and inexpensive therapeutic agent for a wide variety of symptoms, diseases, and medical conditions. It should be available to any patient who can benefit from it. No patient should suffer needlessly, and no patient should ever go to jail for following the advice of a doctor.

Many of the most outspoken advocates for medical marijuana come from the movement for broader reform of drug laws. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has an office in Trenton and has been actively lobbying for medical marijuana, along with other drug policy reform issues, for a number of years. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was perhaps the first organization in America to work for medical marijuana. In 1972, NORML petitioned the federal government to reschedule marijuana so that doctors could prescribe it. NORML’s very popular booklet, “Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids” is a layman’s guide to the previous decade’s research into the numerous medical benefits of marijuana.

But not all those who support medical marijuana support broader access to it. Numerous patients, their families, health care organizations and medical professionals have also supported medical marijuana in New Jersey and they have no position on broader legalization of marijuana for recreational or religious purposes. It is simply not their issue.

So the voters in California will decide on Prop 19 tomorrow. The outcome is currently too close to call. Regardless of the outcome at the polls, Prop 19 is already a winner. It’s placement on the statewide ballot, its favorable polling numbers for several months, and its endorsement by numerous organizations and editorial boards has increased the dialogue about marijuana and has helped to dispel much of the government propaganda about the drug. It is this “reefer madness” that has held back medical marijuana access throughout the country. Even here in New Jersey, the 14th state to pass a medical marijuana law, nearly one full year ago, no patients are expected to legally receive marijuana for another 8 months or so.

Why are politicians so reluctant to allow even the sick and dying to have access to marijuana when the physicians of these desperately ill patients recommend it? The answer is, “Fear.” There is still fear that perhaps the federal government is right when it exaggerates the dangers and denies the benefits of medical marijuana. But California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana when it passed Prop 215 in 1996. Now, after a 14-year experiment with medical marijuana, California is not looking to go backwards. After the direct experience of hundreds of thousands of patients, their caregivers, their families and the medical professionals who follow these patients and monitor their progress, California is looking to expand access to marijuana with Prop 19, not become more restrictive.

If Prop 19 fails to pass into law tomorrow, it has laid the groundwork for marijuana legalization in California by 2012. Governor Schwarzenegger has said that it is time for a dialogue about marijuana legalization. That dialogue has taken place and the “Ayes” have it, or soon will. The outcome of this dialogue can only speed access to medical marijuana patients throughout the land.

Ken Wolski, RN, Executive Director
Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc. (
November 1, 2010


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  2. Even those who are for full legalization of marijuana for recreational use should be grateful that Proposition 19 did not pass. Given the true nature of the bill it should have rightly been named the "control and corporatize cannabis bill". The tax and licensing schemes proposed by most counties in the state would have shut down small growers and given Monsanto, Agramed, Marijuana Inc and similar firms the highly profitable cannabis market they desired. And more than that, the bill would have actually severely cut back on many of the economic and legal protections currently extended to California's medical marijuana users under Prop. 215.

    “People think it’s legalization, it’s being sold as legalization—even though it’s the opposite of legalization.” - Dennis Peron, author of Prop. 215 that legalized medical marijuana in California

    For a Full Breakdown of what was is in the Prop 19 bill: