TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Nicholas P. Scutari that would ensure a person’s use of medical marijuana would not prohibit him or her from receiving needed medical care, such as an organ transplant, was approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
“We are hearing of cases in other states of sick and dying patients being kicked off organ transplant waiting lists for their legal use of medical marijuana,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “This practice is unconscionable as the patients have followed their doctors’ orders and have taken a legal medication to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness. Transplant centers should not be able to discriminate against people for using this prescription pain killer.”
“Medical marijuana is a compassionate and humane way to manage pain and provide relief from side effects that often accompany chronic and terminal ailments,” said Senator Scutari, D-Union and Middlesex. “Our medical marijuana law is already the most restrictive in the nation with built in protections to ensure that people are using the prescribed drug as a treatment for prolonged and chronic medical conditions rather than for recreational use. The thought that someone would be denied treatment that could help cure their condition or greatly reduce their suffering because of their legal use of this prescribed drug is abhorrent. We must address this issue.”
The bill, S-1220, would provide that a registered, qualifying patient’s authorized use of medical marijuana would be considered equivalent to using other prescribed medication rather than an illicit substance and therefore would not disqualify the person from needed medical care, such as an organ transplant.
The bill is in response to recent reports of medical marijuana users being bumped from organ transplant lists for using the prescription drug – a notable case was highlighted in a 2011 Los Angeles Times Article.
The bill would supplement the “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” sponsored by Senator Scutari and co-sponsored by Senator Vitale, which legalized medical marijuana for those suffering from chronic and terminal diseases.
Currently, 18 state and Washington, DC permit the use of medical marijuana with New Jersey’s legal and regulatory guidelines widely considered the most stringent in the nation.
The bill was approved by the Senate Health Committee with a vote of 7-2-1. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.