NJ's Medical Marijuana Program Finally Takes Off
That's the day when qualified patients can first register to receive an ID card for purchasing medical marijuana. That doesn't mark the start of any drug availability which is likely to come sometime next month.
Creating a patient registry is an important first step in allowing patients to use medical marijuana. But that doesn't mean people who participate in the system are safe from legal consequences.
New Jersey is the 17th state to permit medical marijuana but possession and use of the drug is still a violation of federal law, medical use or no.
The fact that a patient is allowed to purchase and use marijuana under state law does not protect them from federal prosecution, according to a Supreme Court case from 2005. Obama has said that it's not his priority to bust medical marijuana users, but that doesn't mean the government is ignoring dispensaries, reports LA Weekly.
The legal murkiness doesn't seem to be stopping New Jersey from going through with plans to allow medical marijuana. The state already has about 150 doctors registered to prescribe the drug and six nonprofit dispensaries with a license to sell.
Only one of those dispensaries currently has a site but it plans to begin selling soon, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Greenleaf Compassion Center of Montclair, New Jersey hopes to open its doors in September pending final permits. Until other dispensaries open it will be the sole provider of medical marijuana in the state.
Bill decriminalizing marijuana possession in N.J. is on right track
We have the natty kingpins of the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” to remind us why Prohibition failed in this state. And someday, surely, we’ll look back on our marijuana laws with the same sense of absurdity.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) already does. He’s proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana, up for consideration today. It has 18 co-sponsors and is said to have made it further in the Legislature than any similar measure so far. It would make possession of a little bit of pot the equivalent of a traffic ticket, with a small fine that brings no criminal record.
Fourteen states already have done that. And unless we’d like to continue to replicate the futile booze busts of the 1920s, let’s make New Jersey next.
Gusciora, also a municipal prosecutor in three towns, is pushing this because he’d rather have law enforcement chase people who commit serious crimes. He’s seen how, every year, tens of thousands of marijuana cases crowd our jails, racking up costs for police, judges, lawyers and taxpayers.
Currently, getting caught with a small amount of pot can send you to jail for up to six months, with a $1,000 fine, possible driver’s license suspension and hundreds of dollars in court fees. But the real penalty doesn’t kick in until you get out of jail. You’re tagged with a criminal record that could make you an economic cripple for life.
Particularly if you’re black, statistics show, or can’t afford a lawyer. Enforcement is blatantly unfair. White kids are more likely to smoke pot, but black kids are much more likely to be arrested. Those with a lawyer often demand a trial, knowing the state will probably back down. Those without one get convicted.
Decriminalizing pot in no way means that it’s harmless, of course. It can kill motivation and cause other health problems. But experts say it’s far less dangerous than alcohol, which is more habit-forming, creates greater dependence and causes more violence, fatalities and reckless behavior.
So far, Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t taken a position on this bill, but he made drug treatment for nonviolent offenders one of his top priorities this year. As a former federal prosecutor, he should see this as another way to keep low-level offenders out of prison and save taxpayer dollars.
Treat pot the same way we do alcohol, with education and treatment. Not by calling the cops. What didn’t work for bootleggers won’t stop the stoners.
Looking ahead to medical marijuana dispensing
Since Gov. Chris Christie gave the nod for New Jersey to become the 14th state to approve medical marijuana, six approved dispensaries are set to open by the end of the year. The one serving the South Bergen area will be in Secaucus.
But the move didn’t come easy. Christie stalled on the program until receiving assurance that dispensers wouldn’t be prosecuted under federal drug statutes. Although the sale, dispensing, growing and smoking of medical marijuana is legal in 14 states, it is not under federal law, leading to confusion between local and federal authorities. According to a statement from the Justice Department, small, focused state marijuana programs would not be a top priority for law enforcement.
"It is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregiver," the press release reads.
New Jersey’s marijuana program is considered the strictest in the nation. Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) will be responsible for growing and dispensing medical marijuana. Patients can get a maximum of a two-ounce supply every 30 days. The active ingredient, THC, is limited to 10 percent maximum. Health insurance providers do not cover the cost. There is a $200 registration fee (good for two years) for physicians and patients. A $20 fee is reserved for individuals under state and federal assistance. The physician must register with the state and attest that the patient is undergoing treatment for an active, debilitating medical condition, and may benefit from medicinal marijuana use to relieve symptoms. The physician must have an ongoing responsibility for the patient’s care. Physicians will provide patients with codes so they can register either online or on a paper application.
The following conditions qualify a patient for medicinal marijuana: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Terminal illness also qualifies if the physician determines the patient has fewer than 12 months to live. The following conditions qualify if they are resistant to conventional medical therapy: seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity or glaucoma.
The following conditions qualify if severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia, or wasting syndrome results from the condition or its treatment: AIDS, HIV positive status or cancer. If a debilitating condition is not on the list, patients can file a petition with the program once a year, according to the state. New Jersey lawmakers have also included a provision that will allow the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to review diseases and conditions periodically and add new ones.
So far, 95 physicians have registered to participate in the program. The largest number of doctors that have registered are the 22 from Bergen County. Rutherford internist Dr. David Isralowitz is not one of them, despite being the founding director of Hackensack University Medical Center’s hospice program. He notes that although evidence shows that medicinal marijuana can be effective, the treatment should be monitored.
"Medical marijuana can be an effective therapy for nausea, lack of appetite and pain related to cancer and chemotherapy," Isralowitz said. "Obviously, it needs to be used in appropriate clinical settings, but that applies to prescribing of all legally controlled medications, from small doses of anti-anxiety medication like Xanax to injections of morphine to control severe pain."
The DHSS is not releasing the names of physicians authorized to prescribe medical marijuana until the list is complete and verified.
"We are still working on a program implementation and there are several steps in the process. The Department of Health has reached out to the Alternative Treatment Centers [dispensaries] to get an update on their progress. The ATCs are gearing up to get their programs operational—locating property for their operations and dealing with other critical issues like security. At least some of the ATCs are expected to be operating by the end of year," said DHSS spokesperson Dawn Thomas.
This is why cannabis needs to be studied and researched by doctors to set a cannabis protocol........our industry has concentrates and extractions where the potency can be controlled and dosed......why mess with nature?
State health department to hold hearing on medical marijuana rules
Published: Monday, March 07, 2011, 6:58 AM
Lawmakers passed a law more than a year ago to allow pot for patients with certain medical conditions, but exactly how it's done has been bogged down in the rule-making process.
Patients and their advocates say the rules are burdensome. They're concerned the law limits the drug's potency, something that none of the 13 other states that allow medical marijuana have done.
While the regulatory process is creeping forward, lawmakers are considering whether to rewrite the rules. Both chambers of the Legislature have declared that the proposed regulations don't follow the legislative intent of the law.