TRENTON, N.J. (WPIX) - New Jersey is moving closer to allowing chronically ill patients to smoke marijuana to relieve symptoms of pain and nausea.

On Thursday, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approved the medical marijuana bill by an 8-1 vote, with two abstentions. The Garden State would become the 14th state to allow marijuana for "compassionate medical" use if the law passes the state legislature and Governor Jon Corzine signs it. Corzine has already vowed support to the bill, if it comes to his desk.

The measure allows chronically ill patients to petition the state to allow them to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Their doctor is required to certify that they have a chronic condition. Patients would be issued an identification card allowing them to grow six plants or access the drug at an alternative medicine center.

Critics say medicinal marijuana amounts to tacit approval of an illegal drug. Middlesex Police Chief James Benson, representing the State Association of Chiefs of Police, warned that legalizing medical marijuana "will lead to increased marijuana use, increased crime, and an increased threat to public safety."

However, a co-sponsor of the bill, State Senator Fred Scutari, said, "It will be the most restrictive law in the U.S. ... with the most safeguards in terms of abuse."