Friday, December 31, 2010
An Open Letter to New Jersey Lawmakers Re: The Medicinal Marijuana Program rules
December 31, 2010
Dear NJ legislators:
The Medicinal Marijuana Program rules from Governor Christie’s Health Department (DHSS) guarantee that the fewest number of patients will pay excessive amounts of money for low quality marijuana. If, that is, the Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs)--New Jersey's dispensaries--ever open. The rules proposed for the ATCs are such an onerous bureaucratic morass that they may never open.
DHSS Commissioner Alaigh said that the proposed rules are necessary so that “the law does not fuel underground illegal activity.”* But the rules do precisely that.
How can refusing to consider, for at least two full years, additional conditions to qualify for marijuana therapy stop illegal activity? It only prevents legitimate patients from gaining safe and legal access to marijuana and thus promotes illegal activity.
How can limiting the THC content of legal marijuana stop illegal activity? It only guarantees that patients who are given sub-therapeutic doses must suffer needlessly or access the illegal, underground market.
How can creating a physician registry stop illegal activity? The Health Department already knows who the licensed physicians in New Jersey are. This costly and unnecessary bureaucratic addition—uncalled for in the law—will only discourage program participation and limit patient access. It will fuel illegal activity.
How can demanding that ATCs--entrepreneurial non-profits--be programmed for failure by forcing them to mimic the culture of a bloated bureaucracy stop illegal activity? If the ATCs fail, or fail to even start, illegal activity continues to thrive.
Commissioner Alaigh seems to think that the Medicinal Marijuana Program is introducing marijuana to New Jersey. Nothing could be further from the truth. High school seniors in New Jersey have said for the past 30 years in a row that marijuana is “easy to get” or “fairly easy to get.”** NBC estimates that there are over 1000 unlicensed and illegal medical marijuana dealers in the state right now.*** The goal of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act is to provide safe and legal access to marijuana therapy for qualified patients in a program run by the Health Department. An overly restrictive program—like the one recently rejected by the entire state legislature—only guarantees continued illegal activity.
Please see Senator Nicholas Scutari’s recent Op Ed**** on this subject. Sen. Scutari, D-Union, was the original sponsor of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, when the bill was introduced into the legislature in January 2005. The bill was signed into law in January 2010. Sen Scutari notes that the entire NJ “Legislature recently invoked a rarely used constitutional power to require the Christie administration to go back to the drawing board to rewrite the rules governing the state’s medical marijuana law.”
These rewritten rules must ensure timely and affordable access to medical-grade marijuana for all qualified patients, in a safe and secure manner. The DHSS must include—not continue to ignore--the expert advice of medical marijuana patients and advocates for this program to be successful.
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org
219 Woodside Ave.
Trenton, NJ 08618
* “Medical Marijuana Debate…Is Relief On the Way?” ONLY IN NEW JERSEY, with Steve Adubato, New Jersey Monthly, January 2011.
** monitoring the future—a continuing study of American youth: http://monitoringthefuture.org/data/10data/fig10_3.pdf (Availability--% saying “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get.)
*** NBC takes an inside look at a NJ medical marijuana dealer, June 30, 2010: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/NYNJ-Medical-Pot-Dealer-Describes-Highs-and-Lows-of-Underground-Sales-97431334.html
**** “Compromise needed on medical marijuana,” December 28, 2010 By Nicholas Scutari, The Record, http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/mj_122810.html?c=y&page=1