College reacts to medical marijuana legalization

N.J. doctors can now prescribe marijuana for medicinal use (AP Photo)
N.J. doctors can now prescribe marijuana for medicinal use (AP Photo)

As one of his final acts as the governor of New Jersey, Jon S. Corzine signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana on Jan. 18, making it accessible for those with chronic and terminal diseases.

Titled the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, the bill enables patients with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain identification cards issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services. Individuals in possession of these cards will not be liable for persecution if found in possession of up to six plants, or one ounce, of “usable” marijuana, which the bill defines strictly as the dried leaves and flowers of the plant.

Though the bill faces floods of opposition, Brian Block, president of the College Democrats, views it as a small victory.

“After the failure of marriage equality, it was nice to see the Legislature enact an important progressive measure,” Block said. “Of course all laws go through a period of trial and error and there may be a few instances where changes may need to be made, and that’s what regulations and executive branch enforcement are for.”

Distribution of prescribed marijuana will be limited to alternative treatment centers, which will be highly regulated by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

The bill is equipped with a number of restrictions, including the prohibition of driving while under the influence and outlines a number of places individuals with IDs can’t smoke, including any school grounds.

Matthew Golden, executive director of Public Relations and Communications, said the College will handle instances of medical marijuana use on a case-by-case basis, as the conditions calling for prescription aren’t common in the student population.

“We are, however, in the process of consulting with other colleges and agencies to determine how we will handle these situations,” Golden said.

According to Joe Hadge, Alcohol and Drug Education Program (ADEP) Coordinator, ADEP is still in the learning stages of the implications of the bill on campus.

“My sense is that New Jersey, and I’m still learning to find this out, is rolling this out with more consideration. They’ve learned from other states … I think if there are improved guidelines, parameters, it may serve well to a specific population,” Hadge said.

Hadge also said the prominent drug issue on campus is hard liquor related.

Though the bill maintains that it “should not to be construed to condone the diversion of marijuana for nonmedical purposes,” the fear of California’s rampant problems with legalization is fresh in many minds.

For others, however, the issue is not strictly the moral aspect of the bill, but whether it deserves attention given the current state of New Jersey’s budget.

“I fear that in New Jersey, at the present time of a nine-point five-billion-dollar budget deficit and all the other problems the state must face, there is more than enough for the already over-burdened state bureaucracy to monitor,” Brian Hackett, treasurer of the College Republicans, said.

The bill is set to become effective in six months, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize medicinal marijuana.