Top Marijuana Officials Resign in New Jersey

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State House dome in Trenton – photo by C. David Freitag

The two officials at the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) who were in charge of the new medical marijuana program have resigned. Dr. Poonam Alaigh and Dr. Susan Walsh made the surprise announcements last week just after they helped issue permits to first six Alternative Treatment Centers for supplying cannabis.

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly have declared that regulations proposed by DHSS for the medical marijuana program do not follow the intent of the law. Doctors Alaigh and Walsh oversaw the creation of the contentious rules.

Filling the recent vacancies at the moment are Mary O’Dowd (Commissioner) and Dr. Christina Tan (Deputy Commissioner). O’Dowd’s husband currently works on the staff of Governor Christie’s Chief Counsel. A physician must hold one of the two positions at NJ DHSS.

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) issued a statement today about the resignations:

It is our hope the new DHSS officials in charge of the Medicinal Marijuana Program will uphold the intent of the law, unlike their predecessors. CMMNJ suggests the following:

– The DHSS Commissioner and Deputies must commit themselves to understanding and openly stating that marijuana is medicine, since that is what the law declares.

– DHSS should be responsive to the concerns of marijuana experts and patients. Previous public hearings have elicited hundreds of impassioned pleas from patients, advocates and potential ATC operators that have been uniformly ignored by DHSS.
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