Sometimes a personal experience moves you to action. Jim Miller’s wife, Cheryl, had multiple sclerosis (MS). Marijuana was the most effective method of relieving the painful symptoms of her condition. Yet Cheryl faced arrest and imprisonment simply for using a drug that relieved her suffering. As a result, Jim and I have formed a coalition that seeks to allow patients to have legal access to medical marijuana here in New Jersey.
Sadly, Cheryl died in June 2003 from complications from MS. But thousands of New Jersey patients could still benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana. These include cancer patients, AIDS patients, glaucoma patients, and spinal cord patients. Marijuana has proven to be effective in all of these conditions. Marijuana also has an extremely wide margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions.
The New Jersey State Nurses Association passed a resolution in support of medical marijuana in 2002. The American Nurses Association did likewise in 2003. A nationwide poll conducted by Time/CNN in October 2002 showed that 80% of the American public supports legal access to marijuana for medical reasons.
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
COALITION FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA – NEW JERSEY (www.cmmnj.org)
(609) 394-2137; E-mail:
Kenneth R. Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director, CMM-NJ
Medical Marijuana Testimony
Thousands of sick and dying people risk arrest and imprisonment simply for using the only medication that is effective for their condition. This is happening right here in New Jersey. This is an outrage and this must stop.
I am a Registered Nurse with over 35 years of professional experience in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I have a master’s degree in Public Administration. I have worked in community hospitals, university hospitals and psychiatric hospitals. I have also worked in public health and in the state prison system. In my career, I have seen thousands of patients who could have benefited from the therapeutic effects of marijuana. As a nurse, I have a responsibility to promote health, to prevent illness, to restore health and to alleviate suffering.
I have studied the effects of marijuana for over 20 years. It is my professional opinion that marijuana is a safe, effective and inexpensive therapeutic agent that should be available to anyone who can benefit from it.
I first became involved in the medical marijuana movement in the early 1990’s, following one of my trips to Europe. While there, I met an American who was living in Holland. He told me his story. He had glaucoma and several members on the male side of his family had gone blind from the disease. Medicines were not helping him, and he had resigned himself to going blind. When he was in his 30’s, he tried marijuana for the first time and he noticed an almost immediate improvement in his vision. He discussed this with his doctor who suggested that he continue using marijuana. As he had no access to marijuana, he grew some on his farm. The police found it growing on his land and arrested him. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to a year in prison. While in prison, his farm and home were seized by the government. When he was released from prison, he fled to Holland, where marijuana is freely available. His sight was saved but he feels terribly victimized by his government. I was very moved by this man’s story and I told him that I would do what I could to right this injustice.
There is nothing new in the use of marijuana as a medicine. It has been used medicinally for centuries throughout the world. Marijuana was widely prescribed in the United States until 1937.
Marijuana has been proven effective in reducing the intraocular pressure in glaucoma.
Marijuana has been proven effective in reducing the nausea and vomiting of chemotherapy.
Marijuana has been proven effective in stimulating the appetite of those suffering from the wasting syndrome associated with AIDS.
Marijuana has been proven effective in controlling the muscle spasticity of spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.
Marijuana is also being investigated for treatment of a number of other conditions, such as Tourette’s Syndrome and pain of various origins.
The safety of marijuana has been established and the benefits far outweigh the risks for most people. No one has ever died from marijuana. It is safer than aspirin.
In 2002, I introduced a resolution to the New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSNA). I asked this professional organization to recognize the therapeutic value and safety of medically recommended marijuana, and to support legal access to marijuana for patients under the care of a licensed healthcare professional. The NJSNA adopted this resolution unanimously. They applauded when this resolution passed. NJSNA is the voice of over 100,000 New Jersey RN’s. These hard working professionals only want what is best for their patients, and they agree that this can certainly be marijuana.
In the United States, 33 states have passed legislation recognizing the therapeutic value of medical marijuana. Eighteen states have removed criminal penalties for use, possession and in some cases cultivation of marijuana for medical reasons: Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Michigan, Massachuttes, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont. Washington, D.C. also passed a medical marijuana initiative but Congress has been delaying its implementation, as the District of Columbia has no home rule.
The American people support medical marijuana. Polls consistently show that over 70% of the American public supports medical marijuana. Medical marijuana initiatives consistently pass in statewide elections.
Here in New Jersey, we need your support to successfully implement our medical marijuana law. Citizens of this state continue to face arrest and imprisonment simply for using the only medication that is effective for their condition.
The man I met in Holland was James Burton. I recently ran across a published account of him in “Patients in the Crossfire,” a book that tells the stories of a number of casualties in the war on medical marijuana (http://www.safeaccessnow.org). I am pleased to report that Mr. Burton is doing well in Holland. He is the founder of the Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana. He now grows pharmaceutical grade marijuana for the Dutch Ministry of Health. The marijuana that this former American farmer grows is dispensed by pharmacies throughout Holland, and is available by prescription only.
Summary of Activities
I don't have all of our medical marijuana (mmj) accomplishments listed as of yet, but these are the finer points:
1993: I pushed Cheryl's wheelchair across NJ, 58 miles with no more than 5 minute breaks. With no mmj legislation pending and no state laws enacted as of then, it was a way to be in the media. Three newspapers and three TV stations were waiting at the Statehouse in Trenton to interview me when I arrived.
1993: A repeat of the 1993 walk with similar results. Cheryl accompanied me in a support van and in the chair at times.
1997: Cheryl committed an act of civil disobedience by consuming a marijuana tincture from her hospital bed in front of the Statehouse in Trenton, as she announced she would do in that day's Star-Ledger. ABC TV carried the event and subsequent confrontation with State Police, who refused to arrest us.
1997: Cheryl and I took part in the relay walk from Boston to DC arranged by Cures Not Wars. We met with representatives of the FDA, Health and Human Services, and NIDA.
1998: We were arrested in Rep Rogan's DC office when Cheryl ate a piece of marijuana, in front of a huge media contingent. See www.mpp.org for details, as they arranged the event. Charges were not brought by the State Attorney's office.
1999: I was arrested in Bob Barr's DC office for refusing to leave. Cheryl laid down in his office doorway on a sleeping bag, but was not arrested. For details, see www.mpp.org.
2000: We meet with Rep. Rob Andrews, who voted against mmj in the 1998 House resolution. He becomes the first member of congress to change his position on that vote to support mmj by cosponsoring mmj legislation. He advised that he changed his position because of Cheryl.
2002: The Libertarian TV commercial, starring Cheryl, was cited by Barr as the reason that he lost the primary election that year. The National Journal voted that commercial "the most dramatic political TV commercial of 2002", out of over 1800 considered.
During the last six years of Cheryl's life, we traveled to DC nine times to lobby for mmj legislation, causing Cheryl pain. That was her choice. All gave some, and some gave all. We were on TV on 11 occasions and in the newspaper on 27 separate occasions.
See MPP archives for additional information.