With New Jersey expected to roll out a controversial medical marijuana program by the late fall or winter, Colorado business owners, patients, and government officials say the Rocky Mountain state provides a window into the best and worst the law has wrought since voters approved it by constitutional amendment a decade ago, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Colorado patients and doctors praise the law for making marijuana available to more than 80,000 people suffering from chronic pain and illness who say they find no relief from prescription drugs. Proponents credit the law with revving a stalled economy, especially in cities like Denver and Boulder.
Critics describe the system as the troubled stepchild of freewheeling California, where marijuana is regarded as a virtually legal commodity. The excesses of California and Colorado drove the New Jersey legislature to pass the most restrictive law in the nation in January. Among the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana, New Jersey is the only one that prohibits patients from growing their own pot. The state will license only six nonprofit dispensaries initially, allowing them to sell no more than two ounces a month per patient. Even such a conservative approach worries Donald Cinotti, an ophthalmologist from Jersey City and president of the Medical Society of New Jersey. He predicts the demand will be high, even though there isn't enough evidence to prove that the illegal drug is any better than prescribed medications for treating most conditions “Philosophically, this to me is decriminalizing marijuana,'' Cinotti said.