Medical community split over marijuana

    A New Jersey bill allowing patients access to marijuana is closer to becoming to law after years of failed attempts. Even if New Jersey does become the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana, the medical community will be divided.

    The New Jersey Senate passed the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act last month. Advocates of the bill says thousands of patients with chronic pain, AIDS, cancer, and other diseases will have a new, effective therapy at their disposal.

    Wolski: Not every pain medicine on the market works for everybody.

    Ken Wolski leads the coalition for medical marijuana in New Jersey. He is also a nurse, and at odds with other medical groups like the American Cancer Society in New Jersey. That group opposes the bill, saying the benefits are vague and it would encourage smoking. Spokesperson Michele Gallagher:

    Gallagher: What we do support is more research into the benefits of cannabinoids in the marijuana.

    Eileen Kean, the director of government affairs for the Medical Society of New Jersey, agrees. She says the bill includes too many illnesses, without enough clinical evidence to back up marijuana’s benefits.

    Kean:
    I think doctors would be more inclined to limit the use of marijuana to terminally ill cancer patients and perhaps MS, because there is some limited evidence that it relieves some of the pain associated with MS.

    The bill awaits a vote from the New Jersey Assembly. Governor Corzine has said he will sign the bill if the Assembly passes it.

    Listen to the radio report:

    [audio:sci20090307marijuana.mp3]

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