Aside from the obvious, why is this significant? States such as California and Michigan passed their medicinal use laws through ballot initiatives. New Jersey does not allow ballot initiatives, which means that any change in the their laws must come from the legislature. In other words, this is the first step down the only path by which medicinal marijuana can be legalized in New Jersey.
The Drug Policy Alliance has a good automated form letter that New Jersey residents can use to urge their state senators to support the bill.
Letters are a good. Sometimes, the officials will even respond. However, in a state issue such as this one, phonebanking can be immensely successful. The office must keep a running tally of all call received, and with each senator representing such small areas, just a few calls represent a huge level of support.
Calling your state senator is surprisingly quick - seriously, time it, and you should be done with the whole process of looking up the number, calling, and reading from the script in less than four minutes. If you're slow, that is.
To look up your state senator, go to www.votesmart.org and enter your 9-digit ZIP code (USPS has a form to look this up if you don't know it).
Click on your state senator (not your senator in Congress!) and click 'complete contact information'. Call this number, ask for the office of __________ (your state senator), and read any or all of the following:
I am calling to urge Senator __________ to support the current legislation to legalize medicinal use of marijuana. It is unconscionable to deny patients the benefits of a medicine that has been proven by over 20,000 medical studies to have beneficial properties. These applications range from treating headaches and nausea to treating diabetes, MRSA, glaucoma, cancer, and AIDS.
Medicinal use is not the same as recreational use. New Jersey's laws on recreational use are firm. However, we cannot deny patients the benefits of a medicine simply because of its potential for abuse. Just as Valium, OxyContin, and Ritalin are all available with a prescription, marijuana should be as well.
DEA Judge young once declared,
Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.
I support the medicinal use of marijuana, and I hope that Senator _______ will voice his support as well.
That's it. You can even read the whole thing in a monotone (though expression helps!). They have to take note of it regardless.
If you have the time (and seriously, who doesn't have five minutes and 42 cents?), you can both send the letter and call the office. But, between the two, it might be worthwhile to call the office. These offices generally receive a low level of calls, and if supporters of the bill flood the office with calls, they are more likely to vote for the bill - and even openly support the bill with an endorsement.
If you live in New Jersey, do make the small effort to show your support for this law as a constituent, one way or the other (or both).