December 18, 2014

Prince Harry gets royal marijuana treatment for NJ visit

3/28/13 by Chris Goldstein – Scores of people from around the globe have been denied legal entry into the United States because they admitted to smoking marijuana – but not Britain’s Prince Harry.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie guaranteed that Harry will remain fully clothed during an upcoming Frankenstorm Tour visit. But before he was topless (and bottomless) in Vegas the red-haired Prince was famous for being the only known stoner in such direct succession to the throne. [Read more...]

The Big Green Doomsday Machine: NJ Gov Christie and Corporate Marijuana

illustration from Skunk Magazine

Printed in the current issue of Skunk Magazine; by Chris Goldstein and Beth Mann from freedomisgreen.com – It is 2012 and a team of political super-villains is plotting to keep marijuana illegal in the USA forever. The steady march to make holistic marijuana therapy available in the US is on the brink of being taken over and exploited indefinitely.

This subversive and nefarious attack is most apparent in states like California. The federal storm troopers smashing up dispensaries and beady-eyed IRS guys seizing property are simply the henchmen.

The new strategists include corporate interests and Big Pharma. These sharks smelled the cash in the water and have quickly allied themselves with old school prohibitionists for a full scale market takeover.

This evil scheme isn’t just happening in the West where legal, upstanding dispensaries are closed by the dozens; it’s a national coup with a powerful command post on the East Coast. [Read more...]

New Jersey medical marijuana supply safe after Superstorm Sandy

Medical cannabis growing at Oaksterdam via Chris Goldstein

11/2/2012 - John O’Brien, the director New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP), reported today that the state’s only cannabis provider was unaffected by Hurricane Sandy.  Greenleaf Compassion Center is the single, fully permitted Alternative Treatment Center. They operate a dispensary in Montclair, NJ and a growing facility at an undisclosed Northern New Jersey location.

O’Brien said via email this morning: “The Greenleaf cultivation facility didn’t miss a beat, no loss of power.  Their harvested product is good and the new cultivation is doing well.  Mr. Stevens [Greenleaf CEO] and company have assembled a secure and sustainable facility.  He deserves a lot of credit for his planning and forethought.”

Concern has turned to relief among registered and potentially qualifying NJ patients who wondered if the historic storm could have an impact on the nascent program.

Patients have started to receive their identification cards from the NJ Department of Health (DOH). Still, prior to the storm Greenleaf ATC had not started serving patients just yet.

O’Brien did not give a time-frame but said, “We continue to work with Joe towards an opening date.”

Advocates at The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) point out that severe weather is just one of the reasons why more medical cannabis ATCs must be opened in different regions of the state. NJ is the first state to pass a compassionate use law that does not include provisions for home cultivation by patients or caregivers. Governor Chris Christie and NJDOH regulators have also refused to allow the ATCs to deliver cannabis to homes; a common practice with pharmaceutical medication.

At the moment, any registered NJ medical marijuana patient or their registered caregiver must travel to Greenleaf ATC to purchase cannabis that is legal under the law. Montclair is in northern New Jersey, just outside New York City. Although the area is easily accessible via roads and public transit, MMP participants in southern NJ (such as Cape May County) face a 10-hour round-trip journey, under the best conditions.

NJ MMP website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/medicalmarijuana/index.shtml

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

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Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

NJ medical marijuana patient ID card FiG exclusive

NJ medical marijuana patient ID card freedomisgreen exclusive via John Lassiter

 

10/23/2012 by Chris Goldstein –  NJ Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) Director John O’Brien responded to questions from freedomisgreen.com and clarified some details about access. Last week the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) announced that Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair is now the only Alternative Treatment Center fully permitted to dispense cannabis in the Garden State. Registered patients also started to receive ID cards (see photo).

Medicinal Marijuana Program Questions

1-[FiG] – How do registered patients and caregivers obtain their ID cards? [re:physical cards]

  • [O'Brien] – DOH originally engaged the Alternative Treatment Centers with the prospect of being the centralized distribution point for ID card delivery.  At that time, the ATCs showed interest in being distributors.  However during a recent progress meeting, Greenleaf representatives expressed concerns regarding security at their Montclair dispensary related to ID card distribution.  The department developed an alternative approach using the mail.  The identification cards are being mailed to the patient and caregiver residences through the mail.  All caregivers and patients who had previously registered will have their cards dated effective Oct. 15—the date Greenleaf was issued its permit. The identification cards are good for two years.

2- [FiG] -How many patients and caregivers have completed the registration process to receive an ID card?

  • [O'Brien] -As of close of business on Friday 10/19/12, there are 223 approved patients, 49 patients under review (the review process involves the validation of a patients submitted documents, proof of residency, photo ID, picture and government assistance if applicable) and 82 patients with physician authorization but have not initiated their registration.  The number of potential patients is 354.  There are 16 approved caregivers and 23 caregivers under review for a total of 39 potential caregivers.  Our customer service unit has contacted and is working with each applicant to ensure a timely and successful registration process.

3- [FiG] - Has DOH check[ed] through the list of registered physicians to confirm their participation in the MMP?

  • [O'Brien] – DOH conducts a routine confirmation of registered physician status with the BME for license in good standing and a valid CDS registration.  To date there are 176 physicians registered with the program.  37 have requested to be inactivated.  72 physicians are actively authoring Attending Physician Statement for their patients.

4- [FiG] -Has DOH, MMP or the NJ Board of Medical Examiners sent instructions, information or offered presentations on how to utilize cannabis therapy and/or participate in the MMP? [specifically to physicians]

  • [O'Brien] -The MMP has been in contact with registered physicians and patients via email and phone providing guidance on MMP procedures.  The MMP also provides information on our web site.  The MMP has engaged the Drug Policy Alliance in the development of a resource library of scholarly articles geared toward providing physicians and patient’s information on the use of medical marijuana.  The MMP has also partnered with the Medical Society of New Jersey in preparing and hosting a webinar to educate the states physician population on issues related to the MMP.  Both of these initiatives are in process.

The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of New Jersey was signed into law in January 2010. The Medicinal Marijuana Program was created under DOH in 2011 and John H. O’Brien was hired as Director. Some have been put off by his previous job; 26 years with the NJ State Police. But O’Brien has shown earnest commitment to getting the very limited NJ program running for patients.

The fact that O’Brien responded directly to questions via email, rather than NJDOH communication staff, does indicate a more open dialogue between the MMP and the public.

NJ MMP website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/medicalmarijuana/index.shtml

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

Read more at freedomisgreen.com

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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NJ medical marijuana: Tough road for patients to first ATC

October 15, 2012 – The NJ Department of Health (DOH) announced today that final permits were in place for the first medical marijuana dispensary: Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, NJ. These are called “Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs)” under the severely restrictive regulations.

Greenleaf ATC effectively enjoys a monopoly on all of the legal cannabis cultivation and distribution in a state of almost 9 million residents.  One of the five ATCs is just getting started in Egg Harbor Township while the other four are not even close to opening. More than a year after gaining the initial contract three of the NJ marijuana ATCs have not even secured a location.

NJ DOH reports that about 190 patients have completed the registration process. The unique restrictions in New Jersey prevents DOH from sending out ID cards directly to the patients. Instead, all of the NJ medical marijuana ID cards will be shipped to Greenleaf Compassion Center for the patients to pick up, in person. CORRECTION – Update 10/19/12 – Some patients have received ID cards via UPS. We are waiting for more information from NJ DOH.

No announcement has been made yet from the management at Greenleaf as to when they actually plan to open their doors. In media appearances this summer Greenleaf reported that they were already growing cannabis at an undisclosed NJ location.

When Greenleaf won one of the six ATC contracts, freedomisgreen.com pointed out that they were very well connected. Former Montclair Mayor Jerry Freed personally went to bat for their application. NJ Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (Deputy Majority Leader for the Democrats) sits on their medical board.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is the most limited in the country.  It is the only state that requires physicians to join a special list to recommend cannabis. So far only 175 doctors are available in the program, most in northern NJ.

NJ ATCs can only provide patients with two ounces of marijuana per month. ATCs can only grow three strains of cannabis at a time; all must have less than 10% THC potency. The only forms of cannabis an ATC can sell patients are: raw plant material, lozenges and a topical cream.

New Jersey’s harsh regulations mean that the vast majority of qualifying residents will likely remain in the underground cannabis market. Without obtaining one of the extremely difficult to obtain ID cards, these seriously ill residents will be left without legal protections if they are caught by police.

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

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IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

State House in Trenton - photo by C. David Freitag

9/28/2012 - Governor Chris Christie was on his favorite FM radio station last night, NJ 101.5, trying to avoid responsibility for delaying the Garden State medical marijuana law. But he may have come clean about something more serious.

Christie: “This bill was passed in a rush in January of 2010 because they wanted to get it in under the wire while Governor Corzine was still here. The bill was without much thought – they didn’t know how they were going to enforce standards or anything else. We essentially had to remake the bill by regulation because it was so poorly written…”

Ken Wolski, executive director of The Coalition for Medical Marijuana- New Jersey (CMMNJ) pointed out that  the governor is far outside of his authority.

“Governor Christie just admitted that he re-wrote the law through the regulatory process with the NJ Department of Health. This is inappropriate: advocates have been pointing this out for two years. An Executive Agency like the Department of Health is not authorized or empowered to re-write the statute and substitute its judgment with that of the Legislature.”

Back in 2010, Christie pitched a monopoly contract on all growing and distribution by none other than Rutgers University. Then he worked the Legislature for a 6-month implementation delay.  Somewhere in between the corporate pharmaceutical and medical interests in the Soprano State smelled cash in the water.

Now the New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) stands as one of the worst examples of government because not one single ounce of marijuana has been made available to patients.

The New Jersey Department of Health issued a massive set of regulations in late 2010 that were absurdly overbearing. They limited THC to 10%, required that physicians join a special registry and made the dispensaries treat natural cannabis as if it were radioactive material.

Christie repeatedly went to bat for the harsh provisions from his bully pulpit at press conferences and behind the scenes by sending his Counsel into meetings at NJDOH.

But the cannabis rules were so bad that in 2011 both the NJ Assembly and the Senate passed resolutions (SCR130) declaring the regulations to be outside the “intent of the law.” The step was almost without precedent. Yet the NJ Legislature lost the resolve to make the final move and invalidate the regulations.

Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill, NJ lives with HIV and is one of the 240 currently registered patients in New Jersey.

“I think I’m patient number 127.”

Still, Lassiter can’t get his MMP card or the legal protections of the compassionate use law just yet.

New Jersey was the first state that passed a medical marijuana law cutting off home cultivation by patients or caregivers. Instead all the patients would be forced into a state-licensed “Alternative Treatment Center (ATC).”

Just six of the ATC contracts were put out to bid by the Christie Administration. None of the ATCs have been fully permitted to open for patients. Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, NJ is the closest to opening.

Jay’s ID card, along with 239 more, will be shipped from NJDOH to Greenleaf for the patients to pick up…if they ever get final permits.

Like most of the NJ patients who have been waiting for the law, Lassiter holds the governor responsible.

“I wish Chris Christie would take the same zeal with which he’s fought this program and apply it to my skyrocketing property taxes instead.”

CMMNJ – http://www.cmmnj.org

Contact  Governor Chris Christie 609-292-6000 or @GovChristie


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IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com


 

 

CONSTITUTIONAL LAWSUIT FILED OVER FAILED NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 4, 2012

ATTORNEYS WILLIAM H. BUCKMAN AND ANNE M. DAVIS

CONTACT: Anne Davis Esq. 732 477 4700, William Buckman Esq. 856 608 9797 or Chris Goldstein 267 702 3731

CONSTITUTIONAL LAWSUIT FILED OVER FAILED NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM

Trenton- Today a lawsuit was filed against the State of New Jersey over the failure to implement the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.

Civil rights attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick brought the suit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana.

The compassionate use law was passed in January 2010 with a six-month implementation timeline. But since 2010 a series of politically motivated regulatory, legislative and bureaucratic delays have kept the program from operating at all. None of the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers have been fully permitted by DHSS to open.

“We represent a patient who suffered actual damages as a result of these delays,” said Anne Davis, “He cannot utilize the cannabis because New Jersey’s lack of a working program means he could lose his disability pension if he tested positive for cannabis.”

Davis continued, “Our neighbors with AIDS, cancer, MS and the worst of medical conditions have testified before the legislature and changed the law. Now, patients and doctors have to go to court to win the rights that they should have already been afforded.”

The lawsuit gathers more than two years of facts demonstrating that those in charge of the implementation process for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program have been unable or unwilling to put the law into place.

“Today we are filing suit to require the DHHS to do what every other citizen must do – follow the law,” said William Buckman, “We are also insisting that pursuant to the legislature’s will, sick people have access to medical marijuana without fear of arrest.”

For more information about this advisory please contact Anne M. Davis Esq. 732 477 4700, William H. Buckman Esq. 856 608 9797 or Chris Goldstein 267 702 3731

 

NJ Gov Chris Christie Plays Medical Marijuana Doctor on Radio

3/1/2012 - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took calls and emails on NJ 101.5 last night. One of the emails asked if he would consider clemency for medical marijuana patient John Ray Wilson. In his answer Christie relied heavily on a report from his Counsel’s office.

Apparently, just one briefing from his in-house attorneys was enough to make Governor Christie an expert on the proper amounts of medical marijuana for patients and the complex disease of multiple sclerosis.

Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

NJ 101.5 - [John Ray Wilson]  was caught growing marijuana in Somerset county.  He suffers from MS …says he was growing for it for his own use for his symptoms. There was nothing really presented governor that would indicate that this guy was a drug dealer….he’s in jail for 5 years… do you disagree with that?

Christie –I do. And I’ve been briefed..

NJ 101.5 – You think John Ray Wilson was a drug dealer?

Christie –This is what I believe…I believe John Ray Wilson… that there are a lot of questions that have yet been answered about John Ray Wilson’s activity. The amount of pot that he was growing was well beyond the amount of pot you would need for medicinal use for yourself. Um yaaa know… His diagnosis um has been has brought into question…to whether he really does have MS or not. Umm I asked my counsel’s office which I said at one of my town hall meetings to review this umm and I’m not gonna talk about all the things that they raised with me. But I will tell you that based on the things that they raised with me and the report, the briefing that they gave me that I am not inclined to give any clemency to John Ray Wilson.

NJ 101.5 – So as far as you’re concerned that’s a dead issue?

Christie – I mean unless something new comes up I think he’s gotta go to jail – And stay there.

Full video from NJ101.5 here.

Prosecutors attempted to bring Wilson’s MS diagnosis into question during his trial but were unsuccessful. When he was jailed in 2010, before being released pending appeal, prison authorities set up medical treatments for Wilson’s MS symptoms.

John Wilson was prosecuted by the New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General. Usually such marijuana cultivation cases are prosecuted by the municipality.

Ken Wolski is a registered nurse an executive director of The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. Wolski has been helping Wilson with his case since it began.

“On 1/26/12 I faxed to NJ Dept. of Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan a copy of Mr. Wilson’s most recent MRI,” Wolski said, “This MRI clearly documents the progressive nature of his MS lesions, and is entirely consistent with his clinical symptoms.”

John Ray Wilson’s family allowed Freedomisgreen.com to review his latest MRI report. Performed on 12/1/2011 it states the following:

“The lesions are considerably more extensive than that seen in 2002. Findings are consistent with demyelinating disease as can be found in patients with multiple sclerosis.”

Wolski also pointed out that there were experts willing to come forward in this case, “Dr. Denis Petro, a Board Certified Neurologist stands ready to testify to Wilson’s diagnosis and marijuana’s usefulness for it, but Dr. Petro’s testimony was not allowed by the trial judge.”

The amount of medical marijuana patients are allowed varies from state to state. At the time Wilson cultivated the seventeen plants there was no medical marijuana law in New Jersey. He grew the plants outdoors so there may have been some reasonable planning for the crop to last into the next year’s growing season.

Wolski had this to say about the not-so-transparent briefing from the Governor’s Counsel: “Gathering secret information on citizens is no way to make a decision about whether or not they received justice in a courtroom.”

On February 16, 2012 the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee passed a resolution urging Governor Christie to grant John Ray Wilson clemency. SCR89 could still go to the Senate floor for a vote in March.

 

CMMNJ – http://www.cmmnj.org

Support John Ray Wilson on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-John-Ray-Wilson-New-Jersey-MS-Patient/104540271138

CALL or TWEET to Governor Chris Christie 609-292-6000 or @GovChristie – ask him to “Pardon medical marijuana patient John Ray Wilson!”

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IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com


 

 

 

New Jersey: Camden Will Consider Medical Marijuana Centers at Land-Use Hearing

2/6/2012 – A zoning hearing will be held before the Land-Use Board of Camden New Jersey on Monday February 6, 2012. These are normally rather dull meetings but on the agenda this week is a variance to allow one of the six state-approved medical marijuana Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs). Several municipalities around the state have already turned down the facilities. This has left the Garden State medical cannabis law completely stalled as none of the ATCs can find a home.

But in Camden there are some new factors to the attempt that could yield a different outcome. Instead of one of the multi-million dollar ATCs seeking permission this time it is an individual going before the local zoning board.  Frank Fulbrook has owned property in Camden since the 1960’s. He is also a local activist and a meticulous scholar. This writer interviewed Fulbrook in 2007 after he mapped all of the open-air drug markets in Camden – a rather large and risky task.

Fulbrook is considered an expert in the local planning code; he actually sat on Camden’s Land-Use Board for many years. Now Fulbrook has partnered up with a friend who owns a warehouse, they will seek the zoning approval on their own and then lease the space to one of the ATCs. Rather than coming in from outside the community asking to open such an innovative business Fulbrook and his partner are super-locals, which should give them a much better shot.

Even with all of these ducks in a row there are other factors. If you have never been to New Jersey you have still probably heard of Camden. The city sits across the Delaware River from Philadelphia and remains a sore spot in the state. Yes there are happy seals barking from the gleaming NJ Aquarium, a bustling Rutgers Campus and some strips of success. But recent budget cuts have escalated the violence and blight across 95% of the already impoverished community.

Governor Chris Christie and the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) have severely altered the plans for the cannabis program. Among the buffet of new restrictions was the elimination of the provisions that allowed for the home delivery of  NJ’s medicinal cannabis. This means that patients or their designated caregiver must visit the ATCs in person. Although Camden is centrally located and has ample connections to public transportation, seriously ill NJ residents may not want to venture into the dangerous city for their legal marijuana.

Another interesting note is that half of the Camden police force was recently laid off. This has led to a sharp increase in the presence of federal agents – mainly in the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA. If the ATC is approved in Camden there may be some friction between a warehouse growing marijuana for half of South Jersey’s patients and the DEA.

Still Fulbrook is hopeful for success, “This is a good place for one of these Alternative Treatment Centers. It’s the largest population concentration in South Jersey and all roads lead to Camden. It’s hub of highways and mass transit. But there are people right in Camden that have serious medical problems like HIV/AIDS …there are a lot of people right here who can benefit from marijuana as medicine. And this can create jobs.”

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) is planning to have advocates at the hearing to testify.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

 

 


Five Ways To Get Medical Marijuana Working in New Jersey

cmmnjsign

Medical marijuana sign by activist Jim Miller on the steps of the NJ State House- *photo by Diane Fornbacher

COMMENTARY from Chris Goldstein 1/15/2012 – It has been two years since the compassionate use law passed in New Jersey. There was some hope in Trenton that day. But now there have only been delays, basement hearings and promises broken.  Not a single sprout of legal marijuana yet.

Terminal patients we work with die off while chronic patients constantly scour the underground market for medical-quality cannabis. Sadly, these patients who risk arrest every day can only expect to have better choices on the streets even if the state-authorized Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) eventually open their doors.

Governor Chris Christie and his administration have attempted to experiment with every aspect of the medical marijuana program. Politicians, bureaucrats and businesspeople (in typical Jersey style) have over-indulged the Executive Branch. A pot monopoly for Rutgers; calling in the Feds; the granite wall of regulatory authority – We’ve seen it all. The end result is a failure to fully implement the law.

Among advocates there is talk of some options to truly jump-start the program for patients. In a more perfect Garden State here’s how the Governor, the Legislature and the respective state agencies could work towards a law that seriously ill residents still desperately need.

Stop the doctor registry and start the Patient Registry

Part of the regulations issued by the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) require the nation’s first registry for physicians. Only these listed docs are allowed by the state to recommend medical marijuana. Doctors, nurses, medical professionals and patients testified many times in Trenton last year as to the problems with this structure. No similar requirement is mandated for drugs like morphine. Opened in October 2010 just 109 doctors have signed up out of almost 30,000 that practice in New Jersey.

But the patient registry was never opened. This means that seriously ill individuals have no legal protections related to marijuana. Unfortunately residents with qualifying medical conditions are still part of the more than 26,000 marijuana arrests in NJ each year.

The regulations currently require that patients have a registered physician and choose one of the six ATCs to even apply for the patient registry card.  But the doctor registry list is not being made public by DHSS and none of the ATCs have opened. This leaves patients with no options. The unique and problematic physician registry could be discontinued or suspended in favor of a streamlined process for DHSS to begin issuing the patient registry cards. Patients could then be offered the legal protections that the state has long promised. The changes required are procedural language changes within the regulations. The logistics of actually issuing the cards to patients is relatively easy.

In other words: Can we stop treating medical pot as if it were highly addictive, radioactive machine gun bullets?

Grant Patients Immunity

If they could have the registry cards then patients could be offered immediate immunity from arrest and prosecution for possessing up to two ounces of marijuana. (Two ounces is the monthly supply allowed under the law – the lowest in the nation.) The current regulations only protect a registered NJ patient if their marijuana product was purchased at an authorized ATC. But the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act already includes guidelines for appropriate possession and use. This could be generally applied to any marijuana, especially during this extended time that the ATCs have not been able to open. Such immunity would free the police, courts, doctors, patients and their families from having to continue dealing with an expensive and senseless criminality. Again this would only take a few changes to the regulations. This legal protection for seriously ill residents was the core intent of the compassionate use law.

In other words: Can we please finally just follow one simple rule – stop putting handcuffs on sick and dying people for having a few joints?

Allow home cultivation

New Jersey passed the first compassionate use law in the country that did not include provisions for patients or their caregivers to grow cannabis. Language to allow micro-plots of up to 6 plants was stripped away from the legislation at the last minute by the Assembly Health Committee. The vision for the program was that seriously ill residents would rely on the regional Alternative Treatment Centers for all of their marijuana. But NJDHSS and the six hand-picked ATC operators have struggled to open leaving NJ patients with no marijuana at all. The regulations from the Christie Administration further restricted the choices patients would have in their therapy. The far-reaching rules limit THC to just 10%, exclude edible preparations other than lozenges and limit each ATC to growing just three strains of cannabis.

Americans enjoy an array of consumer choices in their medical care, from their professionals to their products. But qualifying NJ residents do not currently have any cannabis, let alone a variety. Patients should have access to the strengths, strains and delivery methods that provide the best relief. Amending the NJ compassionate use law to include the original language allowing patients and caregivers to cultivate small plots of cannabis would lift the immediate barrier on patient access.  It would also give patients and doctors greater security in knowing that cannabis therapy will be tailored for specific patient needs.

In other words: The freaking US Department of Justice –THE Feds – even have a more lenient policy on individual patients growing their own compared to NJ…wtf??

Educate doctors, patients and medical professionals

New drugs and medical therapies are often marketed by for-profit companies. There are TV ads, billboards and suit-clad representatives visiting doctors’ offices with free pens and notepads. Think about the approach taken for profit-pills like Viagra. But medical marijuana in New Jersey (as it is in many states) is a not-for-profit enterprise and does not have a slick general marketing campaign. Although the six NJ Alternative Treatment Centers have tens-of-millions of dollars in start-up capital they have not planned to use any of it on public or professional awareness at this time.

The NJDHSS, Board of Medical Examiners, NJ Medical Society, State Nurses Association and other groups could fill in this information vacuum. These groups could hold seminars, compile relevant cannabis information into a statewide public journal and publish education materials. This would help residents, towns and medical professionals benefit from the medical cannabis program.

In other words: How hard would it be to go out there and talk about all of the amazing clinical research on cannabis and cannabinoids? Speaking from some experience, it might even be a little fun…

Advocate to local townships and municipalities

Politicians and state agencies could easily educate townships as to the benefits and details of the Medicinal Marijuana Program. Presentations or panels could be run during events like the League of Municipalities conference. Awareness events like Town Hall Meetings on the topic could be run by the Governor, DHSS or supporting elected officials. They could invite some of the dozens of qualifying residents, hospice nurses, doctors or other advocates who testified with solid information on the topic to speak with them or address questions.

Eighty-six percent of NJ residents support the medical marijuana law – this is the greatest level of support for any legislation in NJ. But there is a lack of information about the nuts-and-bolts of how the law is supposed to work or who it serves. Just like any other new program, the medical marijuana issue deserves the full effort of the state. Towns and municipalities deserve the tools to make effective decisions about the ATCs and their local patient population. Local governments have a special responsibility for this program, as these ATCs must serve an entire region of patients from their local base of operations.

In other words: At our Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey information booth at the NJ League of Municipalities Conference  the most common question we get about medical marijuana (we clock hundreds of these per day; no kidding)  “Do you have any free samples?”

Final Note

There really is only one way forward for New Jersey’s program: Governor Christie and the new state MMP director John O’Brien need to meet with qualifying medical marijuana patients. Listening to them, face to face, about what they need for the law to work is the best path to success.

Chris Goldstein is on the Board of Directors at The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey and NORML- NJ. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

 

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