In early January, the New Jersey State Legislature approved a bill that legalizes the use of medical marijuana. The bill, known as the “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” allows patients with severe diseases—such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis—to purchase up to two ounces of marijuana per month at state-operated dispensaries.

Governor Corzine signed the bill on January 19. To qualify, patients must have a legitimate medical need for marijuana use. This includes a history of seizure, chronic nausea, glaucoma and extreme pain secondary to cancer. This makes New Jersey the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana. The other 13 states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

“Generally, medical marijuana is only used to help terminally ill patients cope with extreme pain,” says Review’s Co-Clinical Editor Robert M. Cole, O.D., of Bridgeton, N.J. “But, in optometric practice, the long-standing ‘joke’ of medical marijuana use for the treatment of glaucoma is just plain ridiculous.” The potential IOP-lowering effects of marijuana use would last just five to 10 minutes, Dr. Cole says, so a patient would have to ‘re-dose’ all day long to experience any sustained therapeutic benefit.

“Patients with glaucoma should be treated with topical drops, argon laser trabeculoplasty or other surgical procedures before medical marijuana is even possibly considered,” he says.