Friday, March 4, 2011

CMMNJ March 2011 Agenda, Minutes & Update

Monthly Public Meeting Agenda
Lawrence Twp. Library (Mercer County) Room #1 (note room change)
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

7:00 PM: Call meeting to order. Approve February 2011 minutes. Discuss:

DHSS Public Hearing on Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) rules is scheduled for Mon., 3/7/11 at the Trenton War Memorial, 10am-12noon. CMMNJ Press Conference noon – 1 pm on the War Memorial steps.

Legal papers seeking an injunction to stop the DHSS MMP ATC RFA were denied by Appellate Court; DHSS accepted 21 applications by 2/14; award decision expected March 21. DHSS web site updated.

New public comment period on DHSS rules ends 4/23/11. Submit written comments on the proposed rules, by regular mail, postmarked by April 23, 2011 to: Devon L. Graf, Director, Office of Legal and Regulatory Compliance, Office of the Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, PO Box 360 Trenton, NJ 08625-0360.

Recent CMMNJ events: Stone Pony, Asbury Park, Bouncing Souls Feb. 9–12. Thanks to vols! CMMNJ met in Newark 2/15 with Mr. Calcagni, Dir. of Consumer Affairs, Office of the A. G. re: rescheduling marijuana in NJ. Ongoing dialogue established. CMMNJ lecture at Ramapo College RCNJ-NORML on 3/1/11. Testimony submitted in support of Maryland’s medical marijuana bill. WZBN interview, 3/3/11. Web site revamp in progress; $500 down payment.

Upcoming event: “Update on Use of Medical Marijuana in NJ” at NJ State Nurses Assn. Convention, Atlantic City, 3/31; CEUs available.

Treasury report: Checking: $5,177; PayPal: $3,280. $500 tax-deductible donation to CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, received from a NJ patient. Use Paypal on our web site, or checks to “CMMNJ” sent to the address below. Get a free t-shirt for a donation above $15—specify size.

CMMNJ’s meetings are the second Tuesday of each month from 7 - 9 PM at the Lawrence Twp. Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Twp., Tel. #609.882.9246. All are welcome. (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. 219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618 (609) 394-2137

Monthly Public Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

7:00 PM: Call meeting to order. January 2011 minutes approved. Discussion:

The Senate Health Committee held a public hearing on the proposed Medicinal Marijuana Program rules on 1/20/11 at the State House. Patients and advocates testified against the rules. The committee voted to pass the testimony on to all the NJ legislators, who now have 20 days to act (on or after 2/20) to invalidate all or part of the DHSS rules. The Health Committee also rejected the Board of Medical Examiners’ proposed rules. NJ legislature to vote on SCR 130 & 140. Asm. Gusciora’s compromise noted but not persuasive in the committee hearing.

DHSS publishes Request for Applications to run Alternative Treatment Centers. Applications must be in by 2/14/11, per their web site, but this conflicts with info posted in the DHSS regs. Attempts to clarify the issue with DHSS have been unsuccessful. Injunction to stop this process planned; legal papers to be filed. More info: (ASAP NJ), contact

CMMNJ meeting in mid-Feb. with Mr. Calcagni, Dir. of Consumer Affairs, Office of the A. G. re: rescheduling marijuana in NJ. Update on victimized NJ patients John Wilson and Art Buist.

Upcoming CMMNJ events: Stone Pony, Asbury Park, 4-day event with the Bouncing Souls Feb. 9 – 12. Web site revamp in progress; $500 down payment.

“Update on Use of Medical Marijuana in NJ” at NJ State Nurses Assn. Convention, Atlantic City, 3/31; CEUs available.

New public comment period ends 4/23/11. Submit written comments on the proposed DHSS rules, by regular mail, postmarked by April 23, 2011 to: Devon L. Graf, Director, Office of Legal and Regulatory Compliance, Office of the Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, PO Box 360 Trenton, NJ 08625-0360.

Treasury report: Checking: $4,627; PayPal: $3,339. CMMNJ received its first contribution from the United Way payroll deduction plan this month!

The next CMMNJ meeting will be Tues., 3/8/11, at the Lawrence Library Room #1 from 7PM to 9PM. For info, contact: Ken Wolski, RN (609) 394-2137

February 25, 2011

Re: Medicinal Marijuana Program Changes Urged

Dear New Jersey Legislator:

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey (CMMNJ) and the Association of Safe Access Providers-New Jersey (ASAP-NJ) have reviewed the Medicinal Marijuana Program regulations published on Feb. 22, 2011 by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Both groups have offered comments and suggestions to put these regulations in conformance with the statutory language and intent.

We believe that the changes we have made to the regulations represent the minimum necessary to have an effective program in accordance with the law. For a copy of the regulations with suggested deletions in brackets and additions underlined, see:

I have drafted the Executive Summary, below, of the changes that we made. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely yours,

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
219 Woodside Ave.
Trenton, NJ 08618

Executive Summary of proposed changes to NJ DHSS Medicinal Marijuana Program regulations by CMMNJ & ASAP-NJ

1. Eliminate the entire physician registry;

2. Eliminate the arbitrary cannabinoid (THC, etc.) level and strain limits;

3. Significantly change the process to add debilitating medical conditions;
a. reduce the 2-year waiting period;
b. change the make-up of the review panel to include medical marijuana experts and patients;
c. require the panel to review scientific and medical research and evidence;
d. allow the review panel to make the final decision;

4. Eliminate arbitrary and capricious physician requirements;
a. the physician need not and cannot determine that providing the patient with multiple instructions creates an undue risk of diversion or abuse;
b. the physician’s certification need not include a statement on the “lack of scientific consensus for the use of medicinal marijuana”;
c. eliminate the requirement that the licensed physician also possess an active controlled dangerous substances registration;
d. eliminate the requirement that the physician seeking to authorize the medicinal use of marijuana by a minor obtain confirmation from a pediatrician and from a psychiatrist;

5. Stop micromanagement of ATCs;
a. allow ATCs to determine the makeup of their own Medical Advisory Boards;
b. remove the arbitrary ban on volume purchase discounting;
c. increase the allowable ATC inventory of processed on hand medical marijuana to 3 months supply per patient
d. allow more variety in products (at least cannabis butter, oil and tincture);
e. allow home delivery as the law does (but do not make it mandatory);

6. Protect patient privacy;
a. do not require ATCs to collect information on the medical conditions of patients;
b. do not require ATCs to collect patient surveys regarding pain control, etc.;
c. eliminate the requirement that the physician identify the patient’s diagnosis to the DHSS in a manner that compromises the patient’s confidentiality;

7. Make the patient/caregiver ID card process more patient-friendly;
a. reduce the fee for a patient ID card to $100 and for a caregiver ID card to $25;
b. do not make registry with an ATC a precondition of patient registration;
c. make application and renewal fees refundable if application is incomplete;
d. caregiver criminal history record background check need not be done every two years;
e. proof of state residency may include a notarized certification of residency containing the applicant’s address;
f. custodial parent, or guardian of a minor need not also be qualified as a primary caregiver;
g. eliminate the requirement that a person who voluntarily surrenders an ID must include a written notice to that effect;
h. clarify that the DHSS shall revoke a registry identification card for failing to qualify for medical marijuana, not that the individual “Ceases to have his or her debilitating condition.”

The Times of Trenton Op-Ed

Wasting precious time for medicinal marijuana program
Monday, February 28, 2011
Gov. Christie said, "Every life is precious." Why, then, is he dismissive of the lives of medical marijuana patients in the state? Jennifer L. confronted Gov. Christie at a town hall meeting in Ewing a few months ago. Jennifer explained how she is rapidly losing weight -- literally wasting away -- without reliable access to medical-grade marijuana. It was clear Jennifer could not survive like this. She said she may be dead by the summer without the use of medical marijuana. Yet the governor told Jennifer that he couldn't be concerned about her as an individual when he had an entire state to worry about. Why is her life not precious? It's one thing to have a tough-guy Jersey attitude. It's another thing entirely to be callous to a dying woman.

Jennifer is not alone. The Hospice and Palliative Care Association estimates that there are 30,000 New Jerseyans in hospice, i.e. with medical conditions that will take their lives in less than six months. All of these patients would qualify for medical marijuana under the terms of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Yet it has been longer than a year since the act was made into law and not a single patient has received medical marijuana, not a
single distribution center is even close to opening, and not a single legal marijuana plant is yet growing in New Jersey. More than 100,000 patients have died in the state in the last year without having the pain relief and improved quality of life that medically supervised access to marijuana can bring.

Gov. Christie is solely to blame for this unconscionable delay in access to medical marijuana. He has insisted on unworkable and unconstitutional restrictions to the medical marijuana program. These restrictions have outraged patients, advocates and the entire New Jersey Legislature. The Legislature voted in December to give the governor 30 days to come up with acceptable regulations. He failed to do so. The Senate Health Committee held an open hearing on these failed regulations on Jan. 20. No member of the Christie administration showed up at the hearing. Not a single representative from the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), which promulgated these regulations, spoke at the hearing in support of the regulations. The testimony was overwhelmingly opposed to the regulations.

The Senate Health Committee gave the Legislature 20 days to consider the testimony and decide whether to invalidate all or part of the regulations. The proposed regulations will not produce a working medicinal marijuana program. At best, they will provide very few patients with low-quality marijuana at exorbitant cost. Only the illegal drug market will benefit from these regulations. Certainly, qualified patients will not. By invalidating most of the DHSS regulations, the Legislature could easily produce a medicinal marijuana program that allows timely access to affordable, medical-grade marijuana for qualified patients in a safe and secure manner.

Even worse than the waste of legislative time that the governor's animosity to the medical marijuana law has caused is its effect on suffering people. Jeanne M. of North Jersey wrote me to talk about her condition, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). Jeanne said her left leg from her knee down is "constantly swollen, burning, cold to the touch and purple in color." She often suffers from "electric shocks" in her toes that cause the excruciating sensation of being electrocuted. Jeanne is on heavy doses of morphine as well as eight other drugs. She would like to be included in New Jersey's Medicinal Marijuana Program.

Unfortunately, Jeanne's condition does not qualify in New Jersey. The Legislature gave the DHSS the ability to add qualifying conditions at any time. However, the DHSS has proposed that patients like Jeanne wait a minimum of two years to even submit a petition to try to qualify for legal marijuana therapy in the state. The petition itself would take a minimum of six additional months to be considered and may wind up being denied.

The constant pain associated with RSD is described as "a burning pain, as if a red-hot poker were inserted into the affected area."

I first heard about RSD when R.M. from South Jersey contacted me. R.M. had planned to commit suicide as a result of her RSD and the intolerable side effects of the opiates that were prescribed to treat it. The choices available to her were either to feel constant pain or to feel like a zombie from the medication. R.M. instead planned to commit medically induced suicide. As a last attempt, she wanted to try marijuana because she had read that it was effective for neurogenic pain (the "electric shock" pain that Jeanne described). Moreover, marijuana allowed patients to function normally, once they got used to the psychotropic effects -- the feeling of being "high" or euphoric.

Jeanne M. and R.M. are still years away from safe and legal access to medical marijuana in New Jersey. I was reminded of this when I heard Gov. Christie say, "Every life is precious." If that is so, why are we driving patients to early graves by denying them timely access to a safe and effective medicine--medical marijuana?

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey Inc. (
©2011 Times of Trenton
© 2011 All Rights Reserved.

For more of the latest info on medical marijuana in New Jersey, see:

NJ Health Commissioner treats medical marijuana patient

Charges dropped against NJ medical marijuana patient; Christie’s broken promise

Maryland's Hearing on HB291, Public Health Medical Marijuana

Gov. Christie and Legislature approach deadline

Open Letter to Gov. Christie from Justin Alpert, Esq.!/notes/ken-wolski/open-letter-to-gov-christie-from-justin-alpert-esq/10150146649839808

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