Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Corzine's Last Acts and Christie's Inauguration

Today marks the end of the road for Governor Jon Corzine. Before he left office, he granted several pardons, but the big news is that he signed the medical marijuana bill into law that makes New Jersey the 14th state to legalize the use under strict circumstances. The medical marijuana law is effective in six months.
The marijuana bill (S119) is expected to take effect in six months. Only patients with specific illnesses would be permitted to get a prescription: cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gherig’s disease), severe muscle spasms, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and any terminal illness if a doctor has determined the patient will die within a year.

The law allows the state health department to include other illnesses when it writes rules implementing it.

The law has other restrictions, such as forbidding people from growing their own marijuana, ensuring it is dispensed through licensed “alternate treatment centers,” and requiring designated caretakers who retrieve the drug on behalf of someone severely ill to undergo criminal background checks.
While some people think that the bill sends the wrong message to children, I think that the medicinal benefits outweigh the problems. Under controlled circumstances, marijuana appears to have medicinal value and can help patients suffering from a range of ailments. It's about moderation and the law balances the medicinal benefits while preventing the drugs from falling into the wrong hands.

Speaking of moderation, New Jersey will also now require chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, even as other reports indicate that the calorie counts may be off by up to 20% and still be acceptable. For a restaurant like Harold's (which isn't a chain and wouldn't be required to post the calorie counts),  the law will have no effect. Then again, one of the reasons that people go to Harold's is to attempt to polish off a  platter or portion that can provide a week's worth of caloric intake. The calorie content in such a case would be to see how much you can eat in a sitting.

While the nanny staters think that such things will help reduce obesity and force change from the top down, the single best way to reduce the waistlines of Americans is for individuals to engage in portion control. They don't have to polish off their plates; and the plates themselves can be smaller. Switching to a slightly smaller plate can reduce caloric intake without any extra effort on the part of the individual. Yet, restaurants are obliged to provide heaping portions because it's about the perceived value of the meals and not the health benefits of (or problems with)  those meals.

So, with that in mind, Republican Chris Christie takes office today and faces  a monstrous deficit and budget problems that are bigger than those of many other states. The state pension obligations are a ticking time bomb, education spending remains out of control and the tax burden continues chasing individuals and businesses out of the state leaving an ever smaller tax base on which a greater tax burden is heaped. These are not inconsequential problems and the legislature isn't likely to give Christie much leeway in trying to deal with these massive issues.

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