TRENTON, N.J. (WPIX)—The nickname "The Garden State" officially now has a new meaning.
The New Jersey Legislature approved a measure Monday, making it the 14th state in the country to legalize the use of marijuana to help patients treat chronic illness.
The measure, which could be signed into law as early as next week, will give patients suffering with illnesses like cancer, AIDS, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis the right to legally access up to 2 ounces of marijuana grown and distributed through state-monitored dispensaries.
The historic vote comes after years of lobbying by patients and political advocates. The final vote did not surprise many, as it moved forward with comfortable margins in both houses. The NJ General Assembly voted 48-14, while the State Senate voted 25-13.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Princeton, N.J. who sponsored the bill, said New Jersey's tough rules on medicinal marijuana will serve as an example for other states interested in passing the legislation.
"This actually will serve as a model legislation for states here on after that wish to establish medicinal marijuana," Gusciora said shortly after the vote. "Currently there are 13 states -- we are the strictest in the United States. We have the most oversight the most controls."
After the legislation passed, supporters erupted in applause with hugs and tears.
"This is a wonderful day! This is the day where it all begins," one supporter told PIX News.
Under the legislation, the state will help set the price of the marijuana, where insurance companies will not be required to pay for it.