Monday, November 22, 2010

NJ Legislature votes today on medical marijuana resolutions

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly will vote on resolutions SCR 130/ACR 151 today. This is the first step in a process that would re-write the draft regulations for the medical marijuana program.

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) released the draft rules last month. Patients, advocates and the law’s sponsoring legislators agree that the proposed regulations are far outside of the legislative intent.

Among the new limitations introduced by DHSS were a 10% limit on THC content, limiting cultivation to just three strains and imposing a physician registry.

In a 10/19/10 OPED to the Times of Trenton, CMMNJ executive director Ken Wolski said, “The draft rules proposed by the DHSS for the Medicinal Marijuana Program are so burdensome, unnecessary and outside the scope of the law that they demand extensive revision."

On 11/8/10 the Senate Health and Senior Citizens Committee as well as the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee forwarded the resolutions for floor voting. Dozens of potentially qualifying New Jersey residents testified for the regulations to be re-written. On 11/15/10 the Senate Judiciary Committee also moved the resolution ahead.

DHSS commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh wrote a Guest Column in the Times of Trenton on 11/16/10 to explain her department’s position on the marijuana regulations. Alaigh defended the new limitations without compromise, concluding with: “As a physician, my first and foremost concern is for patients. As the commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services, my first and foremost concern is the well-being of all New Jerseyans.”

CMMNJ spokesperson Chris Goldstein wrote an OPED in the 11/17/10 Newark Star-Ledger that addressed many of Alaigh’s points. “New Jersey passed the most limited compassionate use law in the country. Polling shows 82 percent of residents support it… Enacting the draft regulations from DHSS would effectively crush the holistic model of cannabis therapy here, except underground.”

Patients and local medical marijuana experts say they are ready to sit down with Governor Christie and DHSS officials to help get a better understanding of the intent of the compassionate use law.

The Assembly voting session is scheduled to begin at 1:00PM and the Senate at 2:00PM.

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