Vitale-Scutari Bill to Ensure Medical Marijuana Users Are Not Kicked Off Organ Transplant Lists Receives Final Approval

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After being approved today by the full Senate, 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, heads to the Governor’s desk.

“The Legislature, the Governor and the people of New Jersey have declared that medical marijuana is an approved medicine and therapy to help people who are suffering from chronic pain and terminal illnesses,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Yet we are hearing of transplant centers that are ignoring this public policy and are actually kicking people off of organ transplant waiting lists for legally using medical marijuana. This legislation will ensure that those who have taken a legal and prescribed medicine to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness are not unduly discriminated against and punished for these actions.”

“With the disturbing news reports coming out of other states, where seriously ill individuals are being denied lifesaving treatments because of their legal use of this prescription drug, we knew we needed to preemptively address this issue,”  said Senator Scutari, D-Union and Middlesex. “Men and women who use medical marijuana should not be treated as drug abusers, but as people who are following their doctors orders and using a legal and compassionate drug that manages pain and provides relief from side effects that often accompany chronic and terminal ailments.”

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 states 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 with a vote of 33-5. The Assembly passed the measure in May with a vote of 67-9-2.

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