[JURIST] Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine signed the "Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana" bill [text, PDF] on his last full day in office Monday, legalizing the use of medical marijuana [JURIST news archive] in the state. The bill allows doctors to prescribe marijuana [NYT report] to patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis, which will be distributed through state-monitored dispensaries. Backers of the legislation have described [UPI report] the bill as the toughest medical marijuana law passed in the US. The measure limits use of medical marijuana to specific types of chronic illness and forbids users to grown their own marijuana or use it in public. The New Jersey legislature passed the bill [JURIST report] last week, and Corzine signed the bill as one of his last acts as governor. Republican Chris Christie [official website] was sworn in as New Jersey's governor on Tuesday.
This legislation makes New Jersey the fourteenth US state to legalize medical marijuana. In November, voters in Maine approved [JURIST report] an expansion [proposed legislation, PDF] of the state's existing medical marijuana laws, making Maine became the fifth state to allow dispensaries [ABC News report], following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. In October, US Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidelines for a new policy [JURIST report] for investigating and prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Those guidelines reflect a pledge made by Holder in March to stop federal raids [JURIST report] on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws. Ending such raids was one of President Barack Obama's campaign promises [Boston Globe report], a view that differed sharply from the policy of the Bush administration.