Thursday, July 15, 2010

Patients, experts look at future of New Jersey's medical marijuana law

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey CMMNJ

CONTACT: Ken Wolski 609 394 2137

Patients and experts look at future of New Jersey's medical marijuana law

Yesterday the Associated Press reported that Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) endorsed plans to fundamentally change the language of The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Scutari originally sponsored the law in 2005.

This puts the issue of sick and dying patients gaining legal access to medical marijuana back to the very beginning of the legislative process.

Proposals for Rutgers University to produce all of the cannabis and have it distributed through teaching hospitals originated from Governor Christie’s office.

CMMNJ executive director Ken Wolski RN said, “Rutgers can always apply to become one of the growers if they are truly committed to serving patients, but don’t let them hold up the whole program.”

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey’s Board of Directors, the patients in our group and our thousands of supporters around the state firmly oppose any entity being granted a monopoly on production of medical marijuana or distribution to qualified patients.

Peter Rosenfeld is a potential patient on the CMMNJ Board of Directors. He said that the recent proposals are ignoring many aspects of the medical marijuana program that should have been considered by the Christie administration leading up to the regulatory process.

Rosenfeld explained, “In addition to delaying the enactment of the bill indefinitely, this proposal does not address the cost of medicine to patients. Unlike other states with large numbers of working patients, under the New Jersey law restrictions a large percentage of the qualifying patients are disabled and living on very restricted incomes. These patients cannot afford the high medical marijuana prices that would result from this single player concept."

New Jersey's law had drawn on the experience of successful medical marijuana programs in other states.

Rosenfeld added, "The bill as passed allows initially for six Alternative treatment Centers. The Department of Health and Senior Services can select ATC plans that will offer medicine at low cost to patients while maintaining strict compliance to state law. This will also allow multiple approaches to be tried to see which works out best.”

CMMNJ contends that if the intent of Governor Christie and New Jersey’s legislators is to actually to help suffering patients and not simply delay this program that they consider some constructive modifications from local experts:

1) Increase the unreasonable and unsupportable monthly restriction from 2 ounces per month or less to amounts necessary to help an individual patient as determined by the their physician. The legislature should not be naming and arbitrarily limiting dosages.

2) Insure that the State allows as many treatment centers operating to ensure that patients do not have to travel far for their medicine.

3) Mandate that the NJ DHSS fix a low price for cannabis distributed to authorized patients; most are on small fixed disability income or not able to work.

4) Include afflictions in the law such as Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and dozens of conditions where research has shown them to be ameliorated by the use of marijuana.

5) Guarantee patient job protection by making the treatment of cannabis therapy in the workplace the same as for any other medicine. Some patients can only function effectively after consuming marijuana and deserve to be gainfully employed while finding relief Testing positive should be eliminated as a cause for dismissal unless there is a documented affect on one’s work and they are a registered medical marijuana patient.

6) Rutgers or any other state-affiliated agency being allowed to grow or distribute marijuana should be in addition to the use of private Alternative Treatment Centers.

7) The authorization of any additional state involvement should not delay the already delayed start past January.

8) In keeping with the Governor’s pledge to cut red tape, there should be expeditious, minimally intrusive registration for patients, caregivers and ATCs. The Lieutenant Governor should intervene in any medical marijuana program matter – just as for anyone else in the private sector concerned about delay caused by the bureaucracy.

Since the law passed in January, CMMNJ has been contacted by groups of New Jersey residents with the expertise necessary to bring medical cannabis to patients safely and effectively. These private citizens fully understand and are willing to take on the risks associated with ongoing federal prohibition.

Ed Hannaman has been working on legal medical marijuana access in New Jersey since 2002 and serves on the CMMNJ Board of Directors. Hannaman said, “How many more years does Christie expect patients to suffer while he experiments with unworkable plans? New Jersey properly enacted a fully reasonable plan that has already been delayed. These attempts to change the law would deliberately inflict greater suffering on patients who have already desperately waited five years for this program. ”

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey is planning a stakeholders meeting this August with the national group Americans for Safe Access. CMMNJ will be working to help increase education and intensify efforts to bring an effective medical cannabis program online as soon as possible.

CONTACT: Ken Wolski 609 394 2137

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