NJ Senate Demands Governor Fix Medical Marijuana Regulations

The New Jersey Senate Monday sent Gov. Chris Christie's (R) proposed medical marijuana regulations back to the drawing board. The Senate passed a resolution rejecting the draft regulations, and the state Department of Health and Senior Services now has 30 days to come up with regulations that actually fit with the state's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act as passed by the legislature and signed into law at the beginning of this year.

The State Senate steps up to protect the medical marijuana law. (image from wikimedia.com)
Although it has been eleven long months since the act became law, Gov. Christie and his administration have been dragging their feet. First, Christie sought a delay in implementing the law and won a three-month reprieve from the legislature. Then, the administration released its draft regulations in October, only to be met with strong criticism from patients, advocates, and legislators. The regs were criticized for conflicting with the law as passed and being so restrictive as to make the program unworkable.

Last week, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton), one of the key sponsors of the law, announced he had struck a deal with Christie, but that Faustian bargain was roundly criticized by patients and other legislators alike. Medical marijuana supporters in the state Senate refused to accept the deal, and Monday made that rejection official.

The New Jersey medical marijuana law was already the most restrictive in the nation before the Christie administration moved to make it even more so. It allows patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. It calls for the licensing of Alternative Treatment Centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana.

The Senate criticized four specific provisions of the regulations that are "not consistent with the intent of the legislature as expressed in the language of the Compassionate Use Act," including the requirement all qualifying medical conditions for which a patient may get medical marijuana be resistant to conventional medical therapy.  In the original legislation only certain medical conditions were required to meet this threshold.

It also rejected the limit of two Alternative Treatment Centers that will grow medical marijuana and four that will dispense marijuana. The original bill called for at least two Alternative Treatment Centers in the north, central and southern parts of the state.

And it rejected the draft regulations' arbitrary limit on the permissible levels of THC the medical marijuana may contain.  There was no such restriction in the original bill.

Finally, it objected to the two year waiting period mandated by the regulations before patients can petition to have new conditions added to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be accessed. No such waiting period was included in the original legislation.

"We urge the department to move swiftly to change the problematic sections of the regulations," said Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, which spearheaded the effort to pass the legislation.  "We are approaching the one year anniversary of the bill becoming law and patients are still suffering and still no closer to having safe and legal access to their medicine."

"I’m tired of fighting for what I deserve," said Diane Riportella, who suffers from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease).  "I don't have much time left and want to see this program started before I'm no longer here."

Also playing important roles in passing the medical marijuana law and ensuring that it is implemented in accordance with the will of the legislature were the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Faith is Our Pathway, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Now, the clock is ticking on the Christie administration. Its delays have been used up, its overly restrictive regulations have been rejected, and now it is time for it to just buckle down and do the right thing.

Trenton, NJ
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Governor's MMJ rules

What are "conventional medical treatments" for chronic pain?  Oxycontin and other narcotics; and we've seen how well that has worked out for many people.   No thank you Governor, you bloated ostrich, I'll stick with marijuana, the safer alternative!

Are you kidding

Here is the funniest line I've ever read:
""We urge the department to move swiftly to change the problematic sections of the regulations," said Roseanne Scotti,"

Wow, that's scary. Now she's "Urging" Look out Governor, she's tough.

When will you that should be protecting our interest, our LAW, get to work and fight and no longer "Urge"

Ms. Scotti. You really need to either get your job done or get the heck out of that seat so someone can.

Thank you.

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