Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CMMNJ September 2011 Agenda

Monthly Public Meeting Agenda
Lawrence Twp. Library (Mercer County) Room #1
Tuesday, September 13, 2011; 7:00 PM -- 9:00 PM

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

Discuss: After a three-month delay, NJ's Medicinal Marijuana Program is moving forward “expeditiously” according to Governor Christie on 7/19/11. Latest count: 99 doctors have registered with DHSS. No ATC’s open yet. No ID cards issued yet.

New Jersey MS Patient Sent to Prison over Medical Marijuana, 8/24/11. John Wilson files Supreme Court appeal after appeals court upholds conviction and sentence in July. NJ medical marijuana patient, activist & CMMNJ volunteer Colleen Begley faces prison term. Ed Forchion, NJWeedman, seeks to have drug charges dropped.

CMMNJ calls for National MS Clinical Trial of Medical Marijuana.

Recent CMMNJ events: See Chris Goldstein on NJ Today 7/8/11. NJ Medical Marijuana Documentary at the Princeton Public Library, 7/21/11. See Ken Wolski on News12 NJ’s “Power and Politics” 7/22/11. See Louis Santiago on Hispanic International Television Network 7/26/11. NORML NJ meeting held in Trenton, NJ 8/8/11. Letter received from NJ State Police Superintendent re: canceled Cheryl Miller Vigil in June. U.S. Medical Marijuana Chamber of Commerce Press Conference at the State House, Trenton, NJ 8/31/11.

Upcoming events: Boston Freedom Rally, 9/17/11. Volunteers needed. Help update cmmnj.org.

Treasury report: Checking: $4041; PayPal: $3043. Make a tax-deductible donation to CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity. Use Paypal on our web site, or send a check to "CMMNJ" 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 ohamkrw@aol.com http://www.cmmnj.org/

Monthly Public Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, July 12, 2011; 7:00 PM -- 9:00 PM

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

There will be no monthly meeting in August 2011. The next public meeting will be Sept. 13, 2011 from 7 - 9 PM in Room #1 at the Lawrence Twp. Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Twp. All are welcome.

September’s Agenda will be sent at a later date.

NJ's Medicinal Marijuana Program is "on hold" according to Governor Christie. NJ AG asks guidance from feds; U.S. Dept. of Justice issues memo from DAG James Cole: http://www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/library/Cole-memo.pdf

Patients are not at risk from feds; the law was about bringing this therapy to patients. If this law can’t do it, home cultivation needs to be reintroduced. No response from Gov. Christie yet. (Note: on July 19, Gov. Christie said the program should move ahead “expeditiously”. See below for an update.)

Trenton Times Opinion: “N.J. should allow medical marijuana home cultivation” 6/27/11.

DEA Ignores Evidence, Rejects Medical Marijuana Rescheduling Petition: See the Federal Register at: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/CRC_Petition_DEA_Answer.pdf

Infants Exposed to Cannabinoids During Gestation Have Lowest 2-Year Mortality Rate of All: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/100/1/79.abstract

Recent CMMNJ events: Letter written to state police re: cancelled Cheryl Miller Memorial Vigil, 6/7/11 at the State House. Medical Marijuana Expo in Atlantic City 6/25/11. Southern Shore Music Festival 6/18/11. CMMNJ Board meeting 6/19/11 at Peter's house.

Upcoming events: NJ Medical Marijuana Documentary--free screening at the Princeton Public Library on 7/21/11 at 7:00 pm.

Treasury report: Checking: $4106; PayPal: $3079. Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc. 219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618 (609) 394-2137 ohamkrw@aol.com http://www.cmmnj.org/

Medical marijuana and the case of a Jersey MS patient
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 6:00 AM
Times of Trenton guest opinion column By Ken Wolski

John Wilson, a 38-year-old multiple sclerosis (MS) patient from Somerset, is appealing his recent marijuana conviction to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The trial judge kept crucial facts from the jury, yet an appellate court last month supported the judge’s decision. Now the Supreme Court will determine if compassionate justice is possible in New Jersey.

About 10 years ago, Wilson was diagnosed with MS, a progressive, neurological disease for which there is no known cure. Wilson’s symptoms were headache, blurred vision and numbness from the waist down. Typically, the symptoms of MS worsen over time and may progress to total paralysis and death. Wilson found from experience what the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s 2008 Expert Opinion Paper confirmed from its research: Marijuana is effective in controlling the symptoms of MS, and it can stop the progression of the disease.

Wilson was arrested in August 2008 for growing 17 marijuana plants that he used to treat his MS. He was charged with “manufacturing” marijuana and faced 20 years in prison. At the request of the prosecutor, the trial judge would not allow Wilson to testify to the jury that he had MS and that his marijuana was for his personal use to treat his disease.

This shocked the conscience of the community, who felt that Wilson could not get a fair trial unless the jury knew all the facts. A number of rallies were held. Many people wrote letters to the editor in support of Wilson, and the judge was besieged with requests to reconsider. The “Support John Wilson” Facebook page was started. Top-notch lawyers generously donated their time to Wilson, who, for years, had been only marginally employed, due to his disability.

Members of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey (CMMNJ) participated in educating the public about this injustice. CMMNJ supporters carried signs in front of the Somerset County Court House, where the trial was held, explaining that Wilson was a medical marijuana patient, not a criminal. Jim Miller, one of CMMNJ’s founders, said that Wilson was prevented by the judge from telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

New Jersey state Sens. Nick Scutari, D-Linden, and Ray Lesniack, D-Union, called on the governor to pardon Wilson, to no avail. Sen. Scutari said, “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.”

Wilson was convicted in December 2008 of the lesser charge of second-degree drug manufacturing. Trial Judge Robert Reed sentenced him to five years in prison. An appeals court recently said that Judge Reed was correct in not allowing Wilson to explain to the jury that he has MS and that the marijuana was used as his medicine. It said there is no “personal use defense to a charge of growing marijuana.” Thus, it was irrelevant that Wilson used marijuana to treat his MS symptoms.

Wilson’s trial lawyer, Jim Wronko, has said, “I believe those statutes are either unconstitutional or they do not accurately reflect the intent of the Legislature not to put someone in state prison for personal use under these circumstances.”

Even the state of New Jersey now officially recognizes marijuana as a legitimate treatment for MS. New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was originally introduced in the Legislature in 2005. It is the most restrictive such law in the nation, but MS is one of the qualifying conditions for marijuana therapy in the state. However, more than six years later, there is still no working medical marijuana program in the state for desperately ill residents such as Wilson.

Discretion, or case-by-case consideration, could have prevented this entire ordeal at any step in the process, from the arresting police, to the prosecutor, to the judge, to the governor. Wilson was arrested despite telling the police about his MS. The prosecutor charged Wilson with “maintaining a manufacturing facility,” despite knowing full well why Wilson was growing marijuana. A jury convicted Wilson without hearing all the facts. The judge sentenced Wilson to prison, and an appeals court upheld the trial court’s decisions.

Clearly, it is a terrible injustice when a defendant is prevented from presenting his only defense at trial. Wilson’s hopes now rest with the state Supreme Court. We have seen just how thoroughly injustice is institutionalized in the New Jersey criminal justice system when it comes to patients using marijuana therapeutically. Now we will see if the Supreme Court is concerned merely with the letter of the law or with actual justice.

Ken Wolski, R.N., MPA, is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey (cmmnj.org).

 To whom it may concern--

July 27, 2011


I received a letter from a patient by the name of R.P. of Trenton, NJ. Mr. P. explained that he is terminally ill and suffers from chronic pain. As such, he would qualify for medical marijuana through the Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) that is starting in New Jersey. But Mr. P. has encountered a problem that I believe is a violation of his rights as a patient to receive appropriate therapy.
In order to qualify for the program, Mr. P. needs to accomplish certain tasks once the MMP becomes fully operational. The only part of the MMP that is working at this time is the physician registry. Patients who wish to use medical marijuana in New Jersey must get a recommendation from a New Jersey licensed physician who is treating them for their qualifying condition, and with whom they have a bona fide physician-patient relationship. The physician must register with the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Mr. P. said that he discussed his request for marijuana therapy with his treating physician, Dr. R.M. who practices in NJ. Dr. M. told Mr. P. that she would, “Never write a marijuana prescription.” This unfortunately and unfairly disqualifies Mr. P. from participating in the MMP. It may be easy to suggest that Mr. P. find another doctor, but given his terminal condition and impoverished circumstances (Mr. P. qualifies for Section 8 Housing), this is not possible.
Nor should it be necessary. The law in NJ qualifies Mr. P. for marijuana therapy, given his condition. The physician did not say that there was a specific contraindication that would preclude marijuana therapy in his case; she only indicated that she had a prejudice against this type of therapy. I believe that this physician’s actions are a violation of the rights of Mr. P. to obtain adequate treatment for his terminal illness. Please advise us in this matter.
Sincerely yours,
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org 219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618 609.394.2137 ohamkrw@aol.com
August 8, 2011
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
733 Third Avenue New York, NY 10017-3288
Dear Sir:
The National MS Society, in an Expert Opinion Paper published in 2008, acknowledged "that cannabinoids have potential...for the management of MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity" and that "there are sufficient data available to suggest that cannabinoids may have neuroprotective effects." In 2011 the Society revised the Executive Summary of this paper. The older Executive Summary went on to say, “The Society cannot at this time recommend that medical marijuana be made widely available to people with MS for symptom management” partly because of "existing legal barriers to its use." This language no longer appears in the updated Executive Summary.
The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) is glad to see this change. CMMNJ called on the Society, in a letter dated 8/13/08, to “better serve its members by joining numerous other organizations that are calling for the legalization of medical marijuana.” CMMNJ noted that this suggestion was consistent with the actions of a number of states that have rescinded their laws prohibiting use of marijuana where medically indicated.
While the Society stopped short of endorsing medical marijuana, it dropped the statement of its opposition to widespread availability of medical marijuana for MS patients. CMMNJ urges the Society to take a more active role in advocating for large scale clinical trials of medical marijuana, so that the limits of marijuana’s therapeutic utility in symptom management and neuroprotection can be determined.
Yet the Society continues to insist that, "Studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit (of cannabis) compared to existing symptomatic therapies." CMMNJ wonders what other symptomatic therapy is also neuroprotective, i.e., what other therapy besides cannabis can “reduce neuronal damage and thereby…limit disease progression” as the Society’s Expert Opinion paper suggests? The Society might also wish to consider the following benefits of marijuana therapy: Marijuana can be grown at home for pennies, it is easy for patients to self-titrate, and no fatal overdoses have ever been associated with its use. These are surely clear benefits of cannabis/marijuana compared to existing therapies.
Nor should cannabinoids have to demonstrate that they are clearly superior to other therapies. No other drug is held to that standard. Cannabinoids should only have to demonstrate that they are effective and safe.
The Society is also concerned that "issues of side effects, systemic effects, and long-term effects (of cannabis) are not yet clear." Apparently, these issues are no clearer to the Society in 2011 than they were in 2008, because the language is exactly the same. CMMNJ believes that the Society is wrong when it says that the effects of marijuana are not clear. Marijuana has been in common usage in American society since the 1960’s. Millions of Americans have used and continue to use marijuana, both episodically and continuously, for over forty years. The effects are quite well known—they are mostly benign, rarely harmful, and often decidedly therapeutic.
The “fears” about marijuana that the Society cites in its Expert Opinion Paper (marijuana’s possible long-term effects on cognition, motor skills, cancer, etc.) are unfounded and have been repudiated by decades of popular use, as well as scientific studies, both in America and world-wide. Moreover, even if these fears were valid, they would have to be taken in the context of the patient population that the Society represents—patients stricken with a dreaded, incurable disease that produces pain and muscle spasms for which, the Society acknowledges, “standard therapies often provide inadequate relief.”
MS patients themselves should be the only ones who decide if the risks of engaging in clinical trials of marijuana therapy outweigh the benefits.
Over 20 years ago, on Sept. 6, 1988, Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, after studying the issue for two years, ruled favorably on the issue of medical marijuana. Judge Young said:
The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.
The Administrator of the DEA overturned Judge Young’s ruling and the DEA continues to this day to obstruct access to and research on medical marijuana.

The Society’s Expert Opinion Paper contains a list of 14 “problems” that are associated with clinical studies of cannabis usage in MS. It is cruel of the Society to continue to insist that the “perfect” clinical research trial be designed before moving forward. In the three years between the original publication of this paper and its update, not a single new clinical trial has been noted. Apparently, not a single one of the objections raised by the Society has been addressed. This is unspeakably irresponsible, especially when given the predictable outcome of MS that is unmitigated by any neuroprotective therapy.

CMMNJ is calling on the Society to advocate for immediate access to a large scale clinical trial--a National MS Clinical Cannabis Trial. CMMNJ suggests that the federal government reopen and expand its Investigational New Drug (IND) trial of marijuana to include every patient in America with a diagnosis of MS. Every MS patient should have access to a continuous supply of marijuana, as long as these patients and their physicians agree to participate in this trial. The trial would be entirely voluntary, of course. If MS patients do not want to participate, they don’t have to. If MS patients do want to participate, however, have the federal government make marijuana continuously available to them in an amount determined to control their symptoms.

Have their physician note side effects and adverse effects, clinical improvements and program withdrawals. Have the trial computerized from the start so that periodic patient evaluations are easily entered by the clinician, and the national data seamlessly compiled. In two years there will be abundant results from this large scale clinical trial. CMMNJ predicts that evidence from this trial will be so compelling that the trial will not only be continued but expanded to include other neurological conditions as well.

The federal government--with the encouragement of the Society--must begin to facilitate large scale clinical trials, not continue to obstruct them. It is time to determine the limits of marijuana’s therapeutic potential, especially in terms of its neuroprotective capacity. CMMNJ urges the Society to strongly advocate for immediate access to a National MS Clinical Cannabis Trial. MS patients are suffering and dying now. They need and deserve this option. MS patients throughout the country would be very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this clinical trial.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.

Sincerely yours,

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Inc. 609.394.2137 http://www.cmmnj.org/ ohamkrw@aol.com

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Inc. (CMMNJ) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the benefits of medical marijuana (cannabinoids).

More September 2011 Updates:

The below three segments are from the Hispanic National Television show, "Dialogo a costa de costa." LINKS: http://youtu.be/0tlBz8b5wQ4  debate marihuana primera parte
http://youtu.be/rNkHFWgUCPA  debate marihuana segunda parte
http://youtu.be/d2xZtRw-ERc  debate extra…

New Jersey Patients Say Medical Marijuana Regulations Still Need Work: http://www.freedomisgreen.com/new-jersey-patients-say-medical-marijuana-regulations-still-need-work/

NJ's Medical Marijuana Law Comes With a Slew of Restrictions Read more: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/news/New-Jersey-Medical-Marijuana-Law-Comes-With-a-Slew-of-Restrictions.html#ixzz1ToSwNKaN

Persistence does pay off for medical marijuana supporters http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/14177-persistence-does-pay-off-for-medical-marijuana-supporters.html

John Wilson’s appeal: Conviction, sentence upheld in Franklin MS patient's marijuana case: http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20110726/NJNEWS/307260021/Conviction-sentence-upheld-Franklin-MS-patient-s-marijuana-case

CMMNJ’s Press Release on the John Wilson appeal denial: http://cmmnj.blogspot.com/2011/07/john-wilsons-appeal-denied.html

Update on Delaware’s medical marijuana program implementation: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110904/NEWS02/109040328/Red-tape-could-keep-medicinal-pot-from-legal-users-till-2013?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CHome

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