Saturday, October 31, 2009

John Wilson Trial Date Set

CMMNJ's Jim Miller was at the Somerset County Courthouse on 10/30 for John Wilson's court hearing.

Despite a public call from two state Senators for a pardon the criminal trial against John is moving ahead.

CMMNJ is planning to have a supporting presence at the courthouse during all phases of the trial. The tentative dates are 12/14 for jury selection and 12/21 for opening arguments.

Jim was quoted and photographed in the following news article

Senators Push for Pardon of Franklin Man with MS Charged with Growing Medical Marijuana -
A four-year plea deal is on the table. But Lesniak said even that could ensure that Wilson would die behind bars.

Prosecuting people like Wilson "wasn't the intent of the legislation," of the drug manufacturing statute, Lesniak said. "It was designed to go after drug kingpins. This is hardly the case."

Wilson is facing two other charges, a second-degree manufacturing charge and a third-degree possession offense. The second-degree charge can bring five to 10 years in prison; a third-degree offense, three to five years.

Lesniak said they have not sought an outright pardon since Wilson must face consequences if found guilty. Community service would be a more appropriate sentence, Lesniak said. READ FULL ARTICLE

More about medical marijuana in New Jersey at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NJ State Senators Ask For Pardon of Medical Marijuana User

In a major development in New Jersey today, two of the Senators sponsoring The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act asked for the Governor to pardon John Ray Wilson!

The full press release is below.

Chris Goldstein

News From

NJ Senate Democrats

Visit us on the World Wide Web at:

FOR RELEASE: Immediate CONTACT: Jason Butkowski
October 26, 2009 Tel: (609) 292-5215
Fax: (609) 633-7254


Lawmakers Say Imprisonment of Somerset County Man Suffering with MS is
Inhumane, Illegal and Inconsistent with Direction of State’s Drug Policies

TRENTON – Calling the prosecution of a self-medicating Somerset County
man with multiple sclerosis (MS) a “severe, inappropriate,
discompassionate and inhumane application of the letter of the law,”
Senators Nicholas P. Scutari and Raymond J. Lesniak today urged Governor
Jon Corzine to pardon Franklin Township resident John Ray Wilson, and
called on the Assembly to quickly move legislation to decriminalize the
medicinal use of marijuana by New Jerseyans with chronic and terminal

“It seems cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey’s sick and dying as if
they were drug cartel kingpins. Moreover, it is a complete waste of
taxpayer money having to house and treat an MS patient in a jail at the
public’s expense,” said Senator Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset.
“Specifically, in the case of John Ray Wilson, the State is taking a
fiscally irresponsible hard-line approach against a man who’s simply
seeking what little relief could be found from the debilitating effects
of multiple sclerosis. Governor Corzine should step in immediately and
end this perversion of criminal drug statutes in the Garden State.”

“Without compassion and a sense of moral right and wrong, laws are worth
less than the paper they’re printed on,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union.
“New Jersey’s tough criminal drug laws were never intended to be used
against patients suffering from chronic and terminal medical conditions.
The prosecutors and presiding judge have set up a scenario where Mr.
Wilson is no different than a common street thug in the eyes of the law.”

In August of 2008, a training fly-over by a New Jersey National Guard
helicopter spotted 17 marijuana plants in the backyard of John Ray
Wilson’s Franklin Township home. Wilson, now 36 years old, was diagnosed
with MS in 2002 and at the time, had no health insurance coverage or
means to pay for the pharmaceutical drugs needed to keep the symptoms of
his disease in check. According to his lawyer, Wilson turned to natural
substances to relieve his suffering, including bee-sting therapy and
marijuana purchased illegally.

Unable to afford purchasing expensive pharmaceutical drugs to ease his
pain, Wilson attempted to grow marijuana for his own personal, medical
use in the backyard of his home. Now, he’s being charged with multiple
counts of possession and manufacturing of illegal drugs, the most severe
of which – first degree maintaining or operating a drug-production
facility – carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and
disqualifies him for the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, an
alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders. State
prosecutors have offered a plea agreement of four years imprisonment, but
the Union County lawmakers called on Governor Corzine to pardon Wilson of
the drug-production facility charge in order to make him eligible to
participate in PTI and avoid a prison sentence.

“It is legally inappropriate, humanly cruel and fiscally wasteful to
impose any kind of prison term for Mr. Wilson,” said Senator Lesniak.
“If anything, this is precisely the sort of case that should have been
diverted to Pre-Trial Intervention. A lengthy prison sentence for John
Ray Wilson would most likely guarantee that he will die behind bars, and
the court should have pursued other options if it was truly concerned
with justice.”

Last week, Superior Court Judge Robert Reed ruled that Wilson’s medical
condition, and the fact that he had been taking marijuana to treat his
condition, could not be revealed to the jury during the course of the
trial. The trial, which will be given a starting date on Friday in
Superior Court in Somerville, NJ, will likely be a “relict of New
Jersey’s outdated, inconsiderate, socially irresponsible and fiscally
reprehensible zero-tolerance approach in treating patients using medical
marijuana to relieve their suffering like hardened criminals,” according
to Senator Scutari.

“Not only is the prosecutor over-reaching and overzealously pursuing the
letter of the law, but the judge is enabling this kind of witch hunt,”
said Senator Scutari. “It seems patently unfair and unjust to force John
Ray Wilson into jail without taking serious consideration of his medical
condition. The court should have also taken into account the extenuating
circumstances involving new Federal guidelines on medical marijuana and
the progress of in-State legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession
and use by New Jerseyans with debilitating medical conditions.”

In addition to asking Governor Corzine to issue clemency for John Ray
Wilson, both lawmakers agreed that the Assembly must quickly move S-119,
sponsored by Senator Scutari and co-sponsored by Senator Lesniak, when
the Legislature reconvenes this fall. Entitled the “New Jersey
Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” the bill would decriminalize
the possession and use of marijuana by State-registered patients with
“debilitating medical conditions,” as identified by a New Jersey-licensed
physician. The bill would also require the State Department of Health
and Senior Services to oversee the establishment and administration of
alternative treatment centers, where qualified, registered patients would
be able to obtain medical marijuana and any related supplies and
educational materials.

“The only way we’re going see less of these cases come before the court
is if the ‘New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act’ becomes
the law of the land,” said Senator Lesniak. “This has been an issue that
has taken years to resolve in New Jersey, and legislative approval and
enactment into law are long past overdue. It’s time that the Assembly
post this bill for a vote, so we can focus our attention on putting real
criminals behind bars, and not piling on the suffering for terminal
patients simply seeking a little relief from the symptoms of their

“For the men and women in New Jersey who have no where else to turn to
effectively manage their debilitating illnesses, the ‘Compassionate Use
Medical Marijuana Act’ would give them an alternative, and protect them
from overly harsh and unnecessary drug crime prosecution,” said Senator
Scutari. “If we had just passed this legislation years ago, we wouldn’t
even be having a discussion about John Ray Wilson, and he’d be able to
get access to drugs to manage the pain and spasticity of MS without fear
of persecution. On behalf of John Ray Wilson and the thousands of State
residents suffering from long-term, chronic and terminal illnesses, I
call on the Assembly to send the medical marijuana legislation to the
Governor to finally be signed into law.”

The “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” was approved by
the Senate in February by a vote of 22-16, and was advanced out of the
Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in June by a vote of 8-1,
with 2 abstentions. It is currently pending before the full Assembly
before going to Governor Corzine to be signed into law.

Jason Butkowski
Deputy Communications Director for Technology
New Jersey Senate Democratic Office
P: (609) 292-5215
F: (609) 633-7254

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ASA: Behind the DOJ Memo

10/25/09 by Chris Goldstein

Scoop: Staffers at Americans for Safe Access met with Department of Justice officials before the memo on medical marijuana was released last week.

My role with several marijuana reform non-profits in New Jersey and Pennsylvania requires interaction with the national reform groups. One that has represented patients with great passion and success is Americans for Safe Access.

They have aggressively pursued issues related to medical marijuana laws and then the rights of patients under those laws. ASA has chapters in several states with main offices in California and Washington DC.

On Wednesday I called ASA's DC office to check in about some literature for events. Their Director of Government Affairs is Caren Woodson. She's an experienced beltway player who has led protests on the street and meetings on The Hill. We've interviewed many times for podcasts and radio and have been working together as advocates this year.

After talking business I asked her what she thought of the Department of Justice memo. Caren's usual, very professional tone changed and there was excitement in her voice: She and Steph Sherer, ASA's Director, had been invited for a meeting with DOJ officials the week before. This was the only known meeting of advocates with the DOJ on this issue.

That morning I had just happened to have wrapped up a telephone radio interview with an author of a book on public education. I asked Caren for an interview right away. The recording took 12 minutes and it aired that night on KSFR 101.1FM with my show Active Voice Radio.

LISTEN- MP3 of Caren Woodson's 10/21/09 interview

In the past, ASA was protesting in front of the Department of Justice: Loudly and very visibly protesting at that. Now they are invited in for meetings. There was no stronger indicator this week of this tangible shift in federal policy on medical cannabis.

The impact of the DOJ memo is already being felt locally in NJ/PA. Two major editorials were published in the immediate wake of the news. The NJ General Assembly is expected to see The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in a floor vote this fall.PA should have the first public legislative hearings on the issue soon.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Easing Their Pain
The Obama administration's new policy on medical marijuana should make it easier for New Jersey and Pennsylvania to legalize its use for seriously ill patients. The Justice Department has removed a major legal hurdle by issuing a memo directing federal prosecutors in states that allow medical marijuana not to target patients or their sanctioned suppliers when the drug is purchased for legitimate purposes. Read Full Editorial
Times of Trenton: It's About Time
New Jersey legislators, poised to vote on the issue, may be encouraged by the federal change of heart. It reflects the opinion of a majority of Americans -- and 82 percent of N.J. residents -- who favor dispensing marijuana to patients. With the new federal policy in place, there is no reason for New Jersey to any longer delay legalizing medical marijuana. Read Full Editorial

NJ residents who support medical marijuana can CLICK HERE TO CONTACT ELECTED OFFICIALS IN NJ

More information about medical cannabis in NJ can be found at the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Philadelphia Inquirer Medical Marijuana Editorial

Editorial: Easing their pain

The Obama administration's new policy on medical marijuana should make it easier for New Jersey and Pennsylvania to legalize its use for seriously ill patients.

The Justice Department has removed a major legal hurdle by issuing a memo directing federal prosecutors in states that allow medical marijuana not to target patients or their sanctioned suppliers when the drug is purchased for legitimate purposes.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration's mixed signals, and makes more sense.

Federal agents are still empowered to go after people whose marijuana distribution and nonmedical use is not permitted under state law, and those who use the sale of medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes.

With that cleared up, New Jersey and Pennsylvania should join the 14 other states that allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Rest of the editorial at:

Monday, October 19, 2009

BREAKING: DOJ Memo - New Medical Marijuana Guidelines

Chris Goldstein 10/19/09

This is truly an historic day for the issue of safe cannabis access in America. It is the first order issued by any White House Administration in support of patient’s rights and upholding the existing programs in place through ballot initiative or legislation. The wording also seems to follow some of the existing language in the de-prioritization ordinances in place around the nation.

New Jersey is the next state that has a serious chance to have a medical marijuana program. State legislation is in the final phase right now and needs your support. More information about medical marijuana in NJ

The full memo was released today at:


FROM: David W. Ogden, Deputy Attorney General

SUBJECT: Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana

This memorandum provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. These laws vary in their substantive provisions and in the extent of state regulatory oversight, both among the enacting States and among local jurisdictions within those States. Rather than developing different guidelines for every possible variant of state and local law, this memorandum provides uniform guidance to focus federal investigations and prosecutions in these States on core federal enforcement priorities.

The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime and provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. One timely example underscores the importance of our efforts to prosecute significant marijuana traffickers: marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican cartels.

The Department is also committed to making efficient and rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources. In general, United States Attorneys are vested with “plenary authority with regard to federal criminal matters” within their districts. USAM 9-2.001. In exercising this authority, United States Attorneys are “invested by statute and delegation from the Attorney General with the broadest discretion in the exercise of such authority.” Id. This authority should, of course, be exercised consistent with Department priorities and guidance.

The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the Department’s efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives. As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department. To be sure, claims of compliance with state or local law may mask operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws, and federal law enforcement should not be deterred by such assertions when otherwise pursuing the Department’s core enforcement priorities.

Typically, when any of the following characteristics is present, the conduct will not be in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest:

  • unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
  • violence;
  • sales to minors;
  • financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering activity and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
  • amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
  • illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
  • ties to other criminal enterprises.

Of course, no State can authorize violations of federal law, and the list of factors above is not intended to describe exhaustively when a federal prosecution may be warranted. Accordingly, in prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act, federal prosecutors are not expected to charge, prove, or otherwise establish any state law violations. Indeed, this memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including laws prohibiting the manufacture, production, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana on federal property. This guidance regarding resource allocation does not “legalize” marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law, nor is it intended to create any privileges, benefits, or rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any individual, party or witness in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter. Nor does clear and unambiguous compliance with state law or the absence of one or all of the above factors create a legal defense to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Rather, this memorandum is intended solely as a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion.

Finally, nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution where there is a reasonable basis to believe that compliance with state law is being invoked as a pretext for the production or distribution of marijuana for purposes not authorized by state law. Nor does this guidance preclude investigation or prosecution, even when there is clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law, in particular circumstances where investigation or prosecution otherwise serves important federal interests.

Your offices should continue to review marijuana cases for prosecution on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the guidance on resource allocation and federal priorities set forth herein, the consideration of requests for federal assistance from state and local law enforcement authorities, and the Principles of Federal Prosecution.

cc: All United States Attorneys

Lanny A. Breuer
Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division

B. Todd Jones
United States Attorney
District of Minnesota
Chair, Attorney General’s Advisory Committee

Michele M. Leonhart
Acting Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration

H. Marshall Jarrett
Executive Office for United States Attorneys

Kevin L. Perkins
Assistant Director
Criminal Investigative Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation

BREAKING: President Obama - New Medical Marijuana Policy

Chris Goldstein 10/18/09

Breaking news tonight from the AP reports a new federal set of guidelines on medical marijuana.

AP Newsbreak: New medical marijuana policy issued

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

READ MORE: New medical marijuana policy issued

New Jersey is the next state that has a serious chance to have a medical marijuana program. State legislation is in the final phase right now and needs your support. More information about medical marijuana in NJ

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Assemblyman, doctors support medical marijuana

Assemblyman Carroll backs medical pot law
By PHIL GARBER, Staff Writer, Randolph Reporter
Published: Oct. 9, 2009

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris, remembers when a family member was suffering from debilitating nausea and extreme pain for months after her surgery for ovarian cancer.

Carroll knew that something as simple as marijuana could significantly limit his relative’s discomfort. He also knew it was illegal to use marijuana for any reason, including medical reasons.

The Assemblyman said the experience three years ago reinforced his belief that it is wrong to bar people like his relative from smoking marijuana if it could ease their suffering. It wasn't long thereafter that Carroll joined in co-sponsoring an Assembly bill to legalize use of marijuana for medical reasons.

Various studies have shown that marijuana can lessen debilitating pain and nausea commonly experienced by people with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other chronic and crippling diseases. Officials in New Jersey have been considering medical marijuana legislation for at lest five years but Carroll said on Sunday that this year the proposal may finally become law.

A Senate version of the medical marijuana bill, S-119, has passed while the Assembly version, A-804, is awaiting action. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he will sign the bill if it is passed by the Legislature. New Jersey would then be the 14th state to allow medical use of marijuana.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, and Carroll is the only Republican among a number of co-sponsors.

"I'm a great believer that physicians should be freed from the restrictions drawn by people who are not physicians," Carroll said on Sunday in a program at the Skylands Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Mansfield Township.

The Unitarian fellowship draws its membership largely from Long Valley, Budd Lake and sections of Warren County.

"The government should not stand between a patient and his doctor," said Carroll, who is considered one of the state's most conservative legislators. "I see people in wheelchairs who say marijuana is their only way to get help."

Carroll represents the 25th legislative district which includes Mendham Township, Mine Hill, Boonton and Boonton Township, Denville, Dover, Jefferson, Morris Township, Morristown, Mount Arlington, Randolph, Rockaway, Rockaway Township, Roxbury, Victory Gardens and Wharton.

Personal Experiences

The legislator said another personal situation further spurred him to support the legalization of pot for medical reasons. He said his grandmother had been diagnosed with lung cancer and that doctors had given her six months to live.

"Six years later, she was still trucking on but she suffered from horrible pain," Carroll said.

The doctors prescribed a derivative of heroin and cocaine to help ease the pain. It was an irony that did not get past Carroll.

"But marijuana is considered a problem?" he said.

Carroll said he has had his own painful, medical ailments which further illustrated why a prohibition on the use of medical marijuana makes no sense.

He said he was suffering from a recurrence of gout and found it very painful to walk. A physician prescribed large doses of Motrin but it was not helpful. Another doctor prescribed Vicodin and Percoset and the two powerful pain relievers worked.

Both drugs also are considered widely abused by young people and opponents of the medical marijuana law say it would make it even easier for youths to abuse pot.

"I have six kids who could get in the medicine cabinet," Carroll said. "The potential for abuse exists but it doesn't mean marijuana should be illegal."

Opponents of legalizing pot for medical reasons often claim that the doses can't be determined or managed because pot is smoked and not taken as an easily-monitored liquid or solid. Opponents also say that there is no scientific data showing marijuana reduces pain but that it only makes the person feel euphoric.

Carroll said the arguments are empty when compared with his own and medical observations.

"Based on my observations, if a doctor says it's effective, we should pay attention," Carroll said. "I can't get exorcised that some MS (multiple sclerosis) patient might also get high."

He said the only scientific studies show that THC, a component of marijuana, is effective in reducing eye pressure for glaucoma sufferers. But he said it doesn't really matter whether the use of marijuana provides relief because it attacks the cause or because of the euphoric effect.

Others argue that pot smoking can damage the lungs, a claim that makes little sense to someone who has a terminal illness and is in great pain, Carroll said.

Opponents also cite the experience in California where medical pot has been legalized and the state has "essentially permitted head shops" to open, he said.

Those opposing the bill argue that it is just a foot in the door toward eventual legalization of marijuana for recreational use. They say that legalizing pot for medicinal use will only make it easier to obtain for recreational use.

"I find it impossible to believe that it may be easier to get if you legalized it," said Carroll who said marijuana is the largest cash crop in the nation, because it is illegal and in demand.

Carroll said legalization of pot for medical reasons will eventually lead to consideration of further legalizing recreational marijuana. And he has no problem with such an eventuality. He said the discussion should focus on the society's failure to control illicit drug use, the disproportionate costs of law enforcement and the courts to punish people for possession of marijuana.

"Any rational dispassionate society will entertain that discussion," he said. "It's the first step toward a realization that there is no such thing as an evil plant."

A key to the success of a medical marijuana bill would be the federal government's agreement not to raid and prosecute those who grow marijuana for medical reasons, he said.

Carroll predicted the bill will eventually be passed but that won't likely be up for a vote until after the November elections. He said in legislative districts with close contests, it will undoubtedly either become a "demagogic" issue or the candidates will not discuss it at all.

"In close elections, the instantaneous desire is to hide your head and lay low," he said.

The Senate bill, S-119, would provide registry cards, authorized by the state Department of Health and Senior Services, to anyone diagnosed by a physician as having a "debilitating medical condition." The conditions are defined as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS or other chronic debilitating diseases or medical conditions that produce or the treatment produces wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms. The state could include other medical conditions if officials saw fit.

A patient or caregiver with a registry card could collectively possess no more than six marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana.

Assembly bill, A-804, is more restrictive. It would allow marijuana use for seizure disorders including epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity or glaucoma that is resistant to conventional therapy; HIV/AIDS or cancer patients experiencing severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia or wasting syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or terminal cancer; and any other condition approved by the state.

The Assembly bill also would prohibit patients and caregivers from growing marijuana. Qualified patients would have to acquire the marijuana from alternative treatment centers as established by the state.

Copyright © 2009 - Recorder Community Newspapers

Dear Esteemed Assemblman,

I am a physician practicing in New Jersey since 1982. I'm writing to ask you to help me, and other like minded physicians, to help in the care of certain seriously ill patients in New Jersey.

On June 4, members of the Assembly Committee on Health and Senior Services approved substitute language for Assembly Bill 804, New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

However, as amended by the Committee, the appropriate indications for medical marijuana was severely limited by not including the control of refractory pain and neuropathic pain. I also object to language that indicates that medical cannabis should essentially be a treatment of last resort.

I believe there is growing evidence-based findings that marijuana has a role in compassionate pain control. Medical pain management is a complex matter and the care is best individually tailored to the specific patient based on many factors. Having medical marijuana as an option, and not necessarily as the last resort option, would be a welcome 'tool' in the armaments of the prescriptive medical doctor. I also would note that marijuana may be the drug of choice in refractory anorexia from any cause. There is probably no drug alternative to this condition. Lastly, as a physician, I object to the position of having non-physicians dictate to me and my patients what can or cannot be used in a given circumstance. Legitimize the medical use of marijuana, or not, but please don't intrude into how I, or my fellow physicians prescribe it for patients.

Yet, I understand the concern and controversy that surrounds the legislature's courageous decision to allow the compassionate medical use of marijuana. And no drug is without potential side effects, nor do I decry the monitoring of its use to keep it a legitimate option rather than an abusable one. I often prescribe opiates for pain management, and the use is carefully controlled. Likewise I occasionally prescribe to treat opiate addiction; so the potential for abuse, misuse and diversion is not lost on me. I agree with restricting the supply only to a system that allows checks and controls on appropriate/inappropriate use.

As substituted, most patients diagnosed with severe chronic or neuropathic pain would no longer receive legal protection under the law.

And that is why I am urging you to SUPPORT THE SENATE VERSION of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which does not contain the assembly health committee’s substitution restricting the use of medical marijuana to a very, very limited number of patients.

Jeffrey S. Pollack M.D.
Mays Landing, NJ

Marianne Bays, Ph.D.
Montclair, NJ 07043

September 28, 2009

Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr.
Delran Professional Center
Suite 125
8008 Rt. 130 North
Delran, NJ 08075

Dear Assemblyman Conaway:

On June 4, 2009, the New Jersey legislature took another step towards providing its citizens with safe access to medical marijuana. I am writing to communicate my passionate support for this initiative and my personal request that you continue to help to move NJ’s compassionate use medical marijuana bill forward during the current legislative session.

Who am I? I am a 57 year old life long resident of New Jersey; and a corporate management consultant, professionally. I have family and friends who suffer needlessly under current state and federal law prohibiting them from obtaining the medicine they need, or putting them at risk of arrest if they ignore current law. I am a member of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana - New Jersey because of this. I have been tracking the NJ State Legislature’s actions on medical marijuana very closely this year and have studied the course of similar legislation nationally. I listened on-line to the NJ Assembly Committee on Health and Senior Services hearing on A804 on June 4 and have a high positive regard for the capable manner in which you managed the public discussions on this bill.

The substitute text adopted by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in A804 reflects an understandably cautious approach to the change in NJ’s existing law. Controls are needed. I believe that the added provision for a formal one-year later evaluation of the enacted bill is excellent. In fact, I think that annual review should be an on-going responsibility of the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services. However, I believe that the restrictions in the amended bill go too far and that the result is not what was intended or what we need.

A truly “compassionate use” medical marijuana bill would recognize that patients are already unreasonably suffering under existing law and would immediately decriminalize possession and use of medical doses of marijuana as prescribed by patients’ physicians.

• It would not push out the effective date of the legislation for 15 months (12 months after enactment, for no good reason, and then 90 days for administrative implementation).

• It would not presume to substitute political judgment for medical, by qualifying the situation under which a patient with a covered illness might have medical marijuana (e.g., only when the illness is “resistant to conventional medical therapy”). There are well documented cases where side effects of conventional therapy are negative, degrading the quality of life for patients, and other cases where conventional therapy is simply too expensive. Where medical marijuana is in any way better than conventional therapy for a patient, his or her physician should be able to qualify the patient for its use.

• It would not arbitrarily restrict the amount of usable marijuana available to a patient during a month to one ounce. Marijuana’s efficacy as medical treatment for an illness depends upon its potency and particular biochemical make up as well as the specific ailment(s) it is being used to treat. Different plants and curing methods yield different results and different disabilities require different dosages. While a one ounce sale and possession restriction at any given point in time is reasonable, expecting that “one size will fit all” in dosage is not. This rule will simply force patients who need more to continue to obtain their medical marijuana illegally.

• It would recognize that those with covered illnesses are often among the poorest and least mobile of our citizens and would provide them with a simple home growing alternative. The restriction against home growing will work to prevent NJ patients from obtaining the medicine they need at the lowest cost possible.

• It would not burden patients with the additional doctor and travel costs that would result from a required quarterly renewal of registry identification cards. Once annual renewal should be sufficient. It would also instruct the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services to find ways to streamline the issuance of registry identification cards to patients. A possible thirty-five day wait for needed medication would not be considered acceptable in treatment of illness in any other case, would it?

When I read through proposed legislation and listen to debates about medical marijuana, I have a mind set that I think you, as a legislator, would also find useful in evaluating proposals for providing safe access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. I ask myself: Does this help Sandy, and what about hospice patients?

Sandy is a friend who has suffered from multiple sclerosis for thirty years. She can no longer work; she is living at the poverty level on disability benefits. She has chronic pain and degenerating mobility. She walks slowly and painfully with a cane. She can no longer climb more than a few stairs. Most outings require use of a wheelchair. Additionally, her dependence on steroids has taken its toll, leaving her with a very fragile immune system, so that she suffers from infections of all sorts constantly. Sandy cannot afford a car and her condition has ruined her night vision, so that she is limited to day time driving if someone is kind enough to loan her a car. She is dependant on friends to get her where she needs to go.

Without medical marijuana, Sandy would be unable to coordinate her muscles, overcoming her pain and spasms sufficiently to enable her to walk. She would suffer from chronic nausea from traditional anti-spasm medicines, and would find it even more difficult to sleep than she already does. Her only alternative for pain management would be morphine, which she can obtain easily, but which is much harder on her body and negatively affects her ability to perform life functions.

At prevailing street prices, Sandy cannot afford the amount of medical marijuana she needs. One and a half to two ounces per month would meet her current needs. She tells me that other medical marijuana patients that she knows consume even more than this amount to alleviate their pain – “up to 10 joints a day”. Sandy would, with education and resources from an “Alternative Treatment Center” have the capability to grow her own medical marijuana. The revised bill does not give her that option, however.

And, what about hospice patients?

They’re likely to be even less mobile. And, they may need family or friends to even figure out how to obtain and use medical marijuana. How is this system of application, review and approval going to help hospice patients? Clearly, these are cases where the patient is unlikely to be able to obtain authorization or medicine without assistance.

However, the substitution bill approved by the Committee on June 2nd, envisions the use of another “designated individual” to obtain medical marijuana for a patient as an “emergency” measure only. How could anything about getting medicine to alleviate a dying patient’s pain ever be considered anything but an “emergency” by loved ones and the patients themselves?

The envisioned lengthy application review and approval process and special exception needed to authorize someone other than the qualifying patient to obtain the medicine both place unnecessary obstacles in the way of getting medical marijuana to patients who need it. With the way this bill has been redrawn, these patients will be dead before they can obtain authorization to acquire and use medical marijuana.

I understand that there will never be a “perfect” compassionate use medical marijuana law in NJ; one that everyone agrees upon. I urge you to support basic legislation this year that immediately:

• Decriminalizes doctor approved use of medical marijuana for patients that are likely to benefit from its use

• Sets only broad limits on the quantities of medical marijuana that may be legally sold to or possessed by a patient at any given point in time

• Establishes a no more than 90 day planning period for enactment of this law

• Establishes a process that streamlines the certification of licenses for patients who obtain doctors recommendations (and for patients’ caregivers where a doctor certifies that the patient will need assistance)

• Provides for establishment of licensed Alternative Treatment Centers to legally grow and dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients

• Permits licensed patients to grow their own cannabis plants as an alternative to purchasing from a licensed Alternative Treatment Center

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours truly,

Marianne Bays

P.S. There is one other aspect of the amended A804 that troubles me. It seems to suggest that the NJ State Legislature expects the Department of Health and Senior Services to be able to regulate/administer some aspects of the growing and dispensing of cannabis to patients that are well outside of the purview of this agency. Basic knowledge of what strains of cannabis are most effective for what different conditions already exists in the medical marijuana community. More knowledge and more strains will continue to develop as time passes. Medical and bio-chemistry professionals should be relied upon for this knowledge; involvement by state administrators makes no sense.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CMMNJ Monthly Public Meeting Agenda, 10/13/09, 7PM, Lawrence Library

7:00 PM: Call meeting to order. Approve minutes. Discuss:

Ø All three gubernatorial candidates said they support medical marijuana during their recent debate. Also, see the article in Inside New Jersey, “Medical marijuana bill gains momentum in New Jersey.”

Ø The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which was approved by the state Senate in February, is due for a vote by the Assembly this fall. Tell your legislators that you want the Senate version of the bill to pass into law. This version does not contain the very restrictive changes to the bill that was released by the Assembly Health Committee. See CMMNJ’s recent blog for talking points—but tell your story in your own words. Don’t let a possibly unworkable bill pass into law.
7PM: Call meeting to order. Discuss:

Ø Support multiple sclerosis (MS) patient John Wilson, who faces 20 years in prison for growing marijuana to treat his MS. Wilson was forbidden by the judge to even mention his medical condition during the upcoming trial. Wilson’s next pre-trial hearing will be on 10/30 at 9AM. Also, a Warren County NJ mother, day care operator, and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president faces many years in prison after her September arrest for medical marijuana that she used to treat severe anxiety.

Ø CMMNJ is scheduled to appear at the following upcoming events:
· Sat., 10/10, 10 AM – 5 PM, Ewing Community Fest, The College of New Jersey, Ewing Twp., NJ.
· Mon., 10/19, 6:00 PM, Ocean Co. Community College Medical Marijuana Debate
· November 16 – 19, League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City (tentative)
· Tues., 10/20, 7 PM, NORML NJ Open Mtng., Dog House Saloon, 270 Pascack Rd., Wash. Twp, NJ 07676.

Ø CMMNJ recently appeared at the following events: 9/13, Hamilton Septemberfest, Hamilton Twp., NJ; 9/19, Boston Freedom Rally, Boston, Mass.; 9/24-26, NORML Conference, San Francisco, CA.; 10/4 Lawrence Community Day, Lawrence Twp., NJ.

CMMNJ raised $178 as a cause on Facebook! See Ken’s Facebook page & Facebook Friends of CMMNJ!

Ø Treasury report: Current balances: Checking: $4974.21; PayPal: $436.19. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) organization, to fund public education about medical marijuana. Donations may be made securely through Paypal or checks made out to “CMMNJ” and sent to the address below. Get a free t-shirt for a donation above $15—specify size. Thank you for your support.

Scheduled meetings are Oct. 13, Nov. 10, & Dec. 8, 2009. CMMNJ meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month at the Lawrence Twp. Library from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. All are welcome. Snacks are served. The library is at 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Twp., Tel. #609.882.9246. (Meeting at the library does not imply their endorsement of our issue.) For more info, contact:

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648
(609) 394-2137

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A804 Substuitutions, Continued

My side of an ongoing email discussion with a NJ legislator - I am very concerned about the A804 "substitution" which allows only a person's primary treatment doctor to make medical marijuana recommendations. This has not worked out in other states that allow medical marijuana, for reasons I describe below.

I hope you have seen the above Star Ledger article where three potential New Jersey Medical Marijuana patients are interviewed: Chuck Kwiatkowski and Nancy Fedder, both with MS, and Mike Oliveri who has muscular dystrophy.

I recently spoke to all three about whether their primary treatment doctor would write a recommendation for medical marijuana when it becomes legal in New Jersey. All three felt it would be extremely unlikely.

Mike, living in "exile" in California while waiting for the New Jersey legislation to pass so he can return, says even in California it is still difficult to get a recommendation from one's primary treatment doctor, nearly 13 years after their legislation was enacted.

Even though these people can benefit more than most from medical marijuana, and even though their doctors understand this, the doctors are still reluctant to recommend for the reasons I outlined.

I seriously feel that the NJ legislation will be "dead on arrival" unless we get the restrictive physician recommendation clause removed.

I would appreciate any suggestions as to whom best to speak to in the legislature about this matter.

Thanks for any help,

Original Letter

I want to thank you for allowing us to discuss the A804 bill with you on

While Chris Goldstein and Ken Wolski may be more experienced with the NJ
political process, this is my first time supporting a bill. I'm an
engineer by trade and know little about politics. So allowing me to sit
in on this discussion was educational for me. I also appreciated your
positive attitude towards the bill.

So I now understand that the bill will probably be in flux when it
reaches the floor and the substitutions are discussed, and it is very
difficult to know at this time how similar A804 will end up to S119.

I'd like to offer a suggestion for a compromise on one of the
substitutions if it becomes necessary to do so. In the Assembly
committee substitutions, recommendations can be made only by a physician
"who is the physician responsible for the ongoing primary treatment of a
patient's debilitating medical condition."

I think that this provision will end up being one of the most
restrictive of the substitutions and could cause the bill to be
essentially useless to the vast majority of patients in New Jersey who
need access to medical cannabis.

From my experience with physicians, most primary treatment doctors will
not recommend a drug they don't have personal experience and training
on, especially if it will be needed long term and especially if the
treatment involves controlled drugs that require knowledge of the
State's paperwork requirements and procedures for that drug.

In my case, for instance, my neurologist focuses on the primary
treatments for my disorder. I see a pain specialist for pain treatment
with scheduled drugs. I see yet another doctor for spasticity control.
Each is a specialist in the class of drugs with which I am being

So it is VERY unlikely that most doctors who are providing the primary
treatment for disorders like MS will want to make recommendations for
cannabis. They simply will not have had experience with the drug, will
not know how much to recommend and they will also be unsure of the
State's rules and regulations for that drug.

Your average doctor will also be leery of dealing with a drug that is
illegal at the Federal level, unsure if recommendations could negatively
impact him or his practice in spite of the protections offered by the NJ

And because cannabis will not be sold by for-profit companies, there is
no wealthy organization that will be offering free training to doctors
on the use of cannabis and how to comply with state laws.

So almost no patients will get access to cannabis, no matter how likely
the drug is to help them.

I can guess the thought process behind this substitution. It was
probably to avoid the setting up of medical marijuana doctor mills such
as appeared in California, who issue recommendations for "hangnails".
Although this, of course, could not happen under the original Senate
version due to the restriction on the conditions for which
recommendations can be made.

Perhaps a compromise procedure could be offered, where the primary
treatment physician provides written verification of the patient's
qualifying condition. This written verification is then taken to a
specialist who then writes the recommendation for cannabis. Both the
verification and the recommendation would be needed for a patient to
receive the a registry ID from the Dept of H&SS.

This prevents the type of abuse I think was the goal of the substitution
and still allows patients to find doctors with the experience and
willingness to make recommendations.
Thank you again for receiving us this week and I hope you will consider
this compromise if the situation comes up where you can offer it.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidates Support Medical Marijuana

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey (CMMNJ) was pleased to see that all three candidates for governor of New Jersey said they support medical marijuana. On Thursday, October 1, 2009, during a debate in Trenton, Democrat Jon Corzine, Republican Chris Christie and Independent Chris Daggett all agreed to sign a medical marijuana bill into law. See:

Christie said, "There have to be sufficient safeguards so that we don't turn into California where everybody with a headache is going out getting high." Corzine agreed: "If you have a headache, it probably should be excluded from the reasons why people get medical marijuana."

It is laudable that the gubernatorial candidates want to protect seriously ill or injured New Jersey patients who use therapeutic marijuana on the advice of a licensed physician. However, it is unfortunate that the candidates dismissed "headaches" as a qualifying condition for therapeutic marijuana. Headaches can vary widely in intensity, frequency and duration. They can be the typical headache that is relieved by two aspirins, or they can be so intensely painful that they induce vomiting and drive the sufferer to a quiet, darkened room for solace. When the latter type headache occurs frequently, they require neurological work-ups and often treatment with powerful pain-killers that are dangerous and potentially addicting. These headaches can be disabling, and marijuana therapy should certainly be considered in these cases. Politicians should stop "playing doctor" and should allow licensed physicians to decide what diseases, conditions and symptoms qualify for marijuana therapy. Research related to marijuana and headaches is available at:

CMMNJ also wonders, “What it is that politicians think is wrong with California?” Voters there approved Proposition 215 in 1996, establishing the first medical marijuana law. There have been no successful legislative or judicial challenges to the medical marijuana law in the state since. The US Supreme Court has affirmed California’s right to define marijuana as medicine. California residents continue to appreciate the benefits of their state authorized program. Patients no longer suffer needlessly or fear arrest and imprisonment for following the advice of a physician. The medical marijuana industry is contributing tax revenue to municipal and state coffers. California universities and medical centers have been conducting medical marijuana research. Overall, marijuana arrests are declining, teen marijuana use is declining, and state resources are not being wasted by arresting and imprisoning medical patients. In the end, California has greatly benefited from its medical marijuana program. Twelve other states have enacted medical marijuana laws since 1996 and another 14 states--New Jersey included--have legislation or ballot initiatives pending. California is clearly a leader on this issue.

CMMNJ Board member Chris Goldstein commented, “I was in San Francisco last week and medical marijuana represents a growing industry, but it is too often maligned by politicians in other states who are under-educated on the topic.” Goldstein said, “No one complains of a headache and gets into a medical marijuana dispensary in California. Everyone needs a recommendation from a licensed physician. One cannot purchase medical marijuana in the same manner as aspirin. Having witnessed the security and check-in procedures at several dispensaries in Oakland, it is certainly different than walking into a Walgreens.”

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act A804/S119 is now in a final drive to passage. The bill has passed the Assembly and Senate Health committees and a Senate floor vote. The issue has received favorable editorials from most newspapers in the state. Now it must see an Assembly floor vote and will likely require an additional concurrence vote in the Senate. Recent polls show between 70% - 86% of New Jerseyans favor medical marijuana access. There is certainty bi-partisan political support for the bill, but passage this year remains far from assured. New Jersey would become the 14th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana if it passes this legislation into law in the near future.

The Senate bill, S119, will remove the state penalties for the possession, use and cultivation of a small amount of marijuana when a licensed physician recommends it for a debilitating medical condition. Qualifying medical conditions include chronic pain, cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, etc. Patients will be issued ID cards in a program run by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Patients will be permitted to grow up to six plants and possess one ounce of marijuana, but they will not be permitted to use their therapeutic marijuana in public or while operating motor vehicles. Patients may designate a caregiver or treatment center to grow the plants for them, but the caregiver/center must also register with DHSS. The substitute bill released by the Assembly Health Committee in June 2009, A804, is far more restrictive. It denies access to the largest population of patients, nearly all those suffering from “chronic pain,” it places severe restrictions on which physicians would be permitted to make medical marijuana recommendations, and it removes the provision for qualified patients to grow their own supply of marijuana.

Many professional health care organizations have endorsed medical marijuana including the American Nurses Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of HIV Medicine. For a complete list of organizations supporting medical marijuana, see the web site of Patients Out of Time.

More information on medical marijuana in New Jersey is available at the web site of CMMNJ, CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, provides education about the benefits of safe and legal access to medical marijuana.

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Warren County PTO President Busted for Medical Marijuana

According to the September 29, 2009 edition of the Express-Times, a Warren County, NJ mother, day care operator, and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president faces many years in prison for marijuana manufacturing:
Responding to a tip, Greenwich Township police raided the home of Liz Kemp over the weekend and arrested the 42-year-old child care operator after they reportedly discovered 19 marijuana plants growing in her greenhouse.

Kemp, who is also listed as the PTO president for the Greenwich Township School District, is facing drug and child neglect charges, authorities said.

Kemp's husband, Glenn Warnick, 39, also faces charges of child neglect. Kemp was arraigned in state Superior Court in Belvidere then was held in the Warren County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. Warnick is not incarcerated.

Police say Kemp operates the Second Home Child Care out of her home on Route 57 in Stewartsville. She describes the center as "a second home for your child to feel comfortable, safe and at home" on her 4-year-old Web site.

The charges against Kemp include possession or "manufacture" of marijuana, operating a marijuana-growing operation, possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Two counts of child neglect are also included for allegedly growing the marijuana while caring for a child.
However, the plot thickened the next day when it was learned that the PTO mom suffered from severe anxiety and used the marijuana to treat her illness when traditional medications did not work for her. According to the September 30, 2009 edition of the Express-Times:
PTO mom who runs Greenwich Township day care uses marijuana to ease anxiety, sister says

Liz Kemp's sister Alexandra Spollen said Tuesday that her sibling uses marijuana to treat an anxiety disorder. Legal drugs have not been effective, she said, and left Kemp tired and depressed.

Spollen insisted her sister used 19 marijuana plants found growing in a greenhouse on her property for medicinal purposes only.

Kemp, the Greenwich Township PTO president, was arrested on drug and child neglect charges earlier this week and sent to Warren County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail...

Jim Miller, president of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, said the drug is often used to treat anxiety "without fear of side effects."

Anxiety, however, is not a disorder currently covered by legislation that would legalize medical marijuana if it makes its way to Gov. Jon Corzine's desk.

Jim Miller is correct. One should not confuse everyday anxiety with the kind of anxiety that makes a person see a psychiatrist for treatment. That kind of anxiety is a disorder that can be crippling. Psychiatrists routinely prescribe tranquilizers and sedatives--drugs that are far more dangerous and addicting than marijuana--to try to keep the patient functioning as normally and as productively as possible. But there are treatment failures--people who respond poorly to the prescribed medicine. What then? In California, these patients are allowed to use marijuana, with the recommendation of a physician. In the current issue (Summer 2009) of O'Shaughnessy's, four physicians from the Society of Cannabis Clinicians have detailed the reasons that they have recommended marijuana for over 10,000 of their patients. 17% of these patients were treated for Anxiety Disorder (ICD-9 code 300.00). This is a far more humane way to treat patients than to throw them in jail for 20 years. For another NJ patient who faces 20 years in prison for growing his own medicine to treat his multiple sclerosis, see:

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director
Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Inc.
844 Spruce St.
Trenton, NJ 08648