Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Septemberfest Surprise

Despite misgivings about even attending this years Hamilton Twp. Septemberfest (9-13), the day was sunny and The CMMNJ table was assigned it's best spot ever. We collected a couple of hundred signatures on our medical marijuana petition and sold wristbands and tee shirts while handing out information and educating those who stopped at the table. Most of the people we talked to did not know much about the status of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana bill. That should tell us something. As much as we would like to think our hard work has ensured that most people are aware that there is a medical marijuana bill poised to pass into law in New Jersey, it's just not so. Some people thought that we have already passed medical marijuana law, some thought that something like that could never be done in NJ, and many were still simply not aware that such a bill even exists. We cannot let up in our educational efforts until the governor's pen actually makes contact with the bill.

The day was already a success when it took a turn for the better. Politicians frequent these events so when Ken said "is that Chris Christie who just walked by" I figured it may well be him. I picked up a postcard picturing my late wife Cheryl as she sat in her wheelchair with a sign leaned against it stating "I'm a medical marijuana patient, not a criminal!" and headed off to see if it was indeed the New Jersey republican candidate for governor. Oh yeah, it was him. There was a group of about 20 people walking with Mr. Christie as I approached him and introduced myself. I showed him the postcard with my thumb covering the medical marijuana part and told him that Cheryl bravely fought multiple sclerosis for 32 years before she died six years ago. I moved my thumb away and continued on to say that medical marijuana was Cheryl's best medicine for pain and spasticity whether he understood that or not. As I was about to confront him about his previously stated opposition to medical marijuana I noticed that it was NJ state senator Bill Baroni who was accompanying him around the park. Now THERE'S two republicans with completely opposite opinions about medical marijuana.

I told Mr. Christie that he was standing next to one of my political heroes. I explained how, as a member of the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Baroni took his committee vote on medical marijuana very seriously. Seriously enough to state on the floor of the Senate how he had read everything that everybody sent him and listened ALL testimony on the subject before deciding how to vote. Baroni stood with his arms folded in front of him as he smiled and agreed, saying "I did". He did the work. He defined his job description by his actions on the floor that day. (You can go to http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/archive_audio2.asp?KEY=SHH&SESSION=2008 and click on "listen" at the 12-15-08 hearing to hear his inspiring words at the 2:38:30 mark.) I told Mr. Christie that I understood that he is a very busy man, but if he trusted Senator Baroni he should at least briefly talk to him about what he learned while investigating the facts about New Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana bill. Christie nodded in agreement while being very careful not to utter a single word. Smart move.

So, we will see. Everyone can evolve as information becomes available. I assume that Mr. Christie's stated opinions about medical marijuana have been formed by getting information solely from sources that are against it. Now we will see if talking to someone who has gone to both sides of the issue for information will effect his myopic opinions of the past. I mean, if former congressman Bob Barr can evolve on this issue, anyone can. I chose not to confront Chris Christie because I didn't have to. The door is open for Sen. Baroni and Chris Christie to have the conversation that they should have. If Christie doesn't take the opportunity it will demonstrate that he would rather go with the preconceived opinion that most republicans seem to have. That door swings both ways though. If Sen. Baroni doesn't take this opening to educate Mr. Christie, I will be seriously disappointed, and so will the patients who he gave so much hope to on December 15, 2008.

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