Monday, September 19, 2011

DHSS says no ATC permits have been issued yet for Medicinal Marijuana Program

The Star-Ledger reported yesterday that not a single Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) has been issued a permit to operate by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

In January 2011, a full year after the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law, the DHSS issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for ATCs to grow, process and distribute marijuana to qualified patients here. Extensive applications were required to be submitted by 2/14/11, accompanied by a $20,000 application fee. The DHSS RFA noted that on 3/21/11 there would be a “Department announcement of applicant(s) granted a Permit to operate an alternative treatment center.” On March 21, 2011, the DHSS issued a press release announcing the “Licensing of Six Nonprofit Alternative Treatment centers for (the) Medicinal Marijuana Program.”

Yesterday, nearly six months later, the Ledger reported that DHSS spokeswoman Donna Leusner said that the March announcement actually meant that the applications had been approved with the intent to award permits. "The process is not over," Leusner said. "The department has not issued permits yet for any of the alternative treatment centers. No one will be able to begin the business of growing or dispensing medical marijuana until this process is completed."

Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. said, “CMMNJ is disappointed to learn that the licensing of six ATCs on 3/21/11 was only a misleading communication from the DHSS. Apparently the DHSS did not mean what it said. I wonder if this had anything to do with the sudden resignations of New Jersey’s two top health officials announced in March 2011, DHSS Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Susan Walsh? A greater and more immediate concern, however, is when exactly these ATCs will start to operate. Gov. Christie said in a press conference in July 2011 that he expected medical marijuana to be available to patients by the end of this year. This is nonsense. This can never happen. It is clearly another piece of medical marijuana misinformation from the Christie administration.”

“Meanwhile, qualified patients continue to suffer and die in NJ without the pain relief and quality of life improvement that marijuana can bring to them. Multiple sclerosis patient John Wilson began serving a five year prison term for growing marijuana to treat his debilitating medical condition. Medical marijuana patient Colleen Begley faces 10 years in prison for obtaining marijuana from out-of-state and sharing it with her fellow patients."

"These delays in implementing the medical marijuana program are intolerable.” Wolski said. “If the state can’t get its act together, let qualified patients or caregivers grow six plants at home, like the original bill said.”

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

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