Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PTSD marijuana study for veterans stalled by feds

219 Woodside Ave.
Trenton, NJ 08618-3432

November 29, 2011

Congressman Rush Holt
1214 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Holt:

It is an outrage that veterans of the U.S. armed forces who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are denied access to a clinical trial of marijuana after this trial has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Every 80 minutes a US military veteran commits suicide, far exceeding the national average for non-veterans. A few years ago, suicide passed combat fatalities as the leading cause of death among Viet Nam veterans, now numbering over 50,000. PTSD is a factor in most of those deaths.

The FDA approved the protocol from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies for a clinical trial using combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD which is resistant to conventional therapies. The study is designed to see if medical marijuana can have a beneficial effect on PTSD, as a great deal of evidence suggests. However, the federal government has a monopoly on the only supply of marijuana permitted to be used in medical research. On September 16, 2011, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) refused to release the marijuana necessary for this FDA-approved clinical trial to proceed, even though the study is privately funded and would cost taxpayers nothing.

Our veterans deserve the best treatment available for their combat-related disabilities. Please help to get this research back on track.

Sincerely yours,

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NJ DHSS adopts rules for Medicinal Marijuana Program

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced on its web site this week (http://www.state.nj.us/health/medicalmarijuana/) that it has filed a Notice of Adoption with the Office of Administrative Law. What this means is that the DHSS has formally responded to all of the public comments it has received about its proposed Medicinal Marijuana Program and it has submitted the final, adopted rules to the New Jersey Register for publication.

Unfortunately for patients, physicians, caregivers, ATC operators, family members and medical marijuana advocates, the DHSS has decided not to change a single thing in its 100 plus pages of rules that have been the subject of much criticism and impassioned public comment. The proposed rules will be adopted virtually unchanged. Read it and weep: http://www.state.nj.us/health/medicalmarijuana/documents/medical_marijuana_proposal.pdf

The 10% cap on THC potency, the limit of 3 strains of marijuana that will be available, the physician registry, and the micromanagement of ATCs including the arbitrary zoning requirements will all stay in the final version of the adopted rules.

The only changes in the rules were in a seperate proposal from the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners. To their credit, the BME was responsive to one criticism and they dropped the requirement that doctors had to periodically wean their patients off marijuana. The BME also said that the marijuana education requirements for physicians were under review. It is hoped that the new education requirements will have something to do with the Endocannabinoid System, that is, how marijuana actually works in the human body.

The DHSS says that it is "committed to the effective implementation of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act to make medicinal marijuana available as soon as possible, while ensuring the integrity of the program." If that is the case, they are certainly going about it the wrong way.

Marijuana experts have been completely excluded from meaningful participation in the development of this program. No wonder the DHSS had problems. It was like trying to build a bridge without using bridge engineers.

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey has already despaired of seeing any kind of meaningful Medicinal Marijuana Program during the Christie administration. The DHSS rules are designed to provide poor quality marijuana to very few patients at very high cost--if the program ever gets working at all. The physician registry has dissuaded all but 1% of New Jersey licensed physicians from participating in the program. The zoning rules imposed by DHSS have caused outrage in local communities when ATCs or their greenhouses attempt to locate there.

The unresponsiveness of the DHSS to the public comments and to the welfare of patients is a disgrace. It remains to be seen whether the legislature will act to save its own law which passed nearly two years ago, but has yet to see a single patient legally protected. The legislature has already agreed that the proposed rules from the DHSS were inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The legislature gave the DHSS adequate time and good faith to amend these rules. The DHSS has failed to do so. Now, the legislature must complete its work and invalidate these rules.

Friday, November 18, 2011

ATC Meeting Rescheduled Due to Overcrowding

NJ.com reports that the medical marijuana meeting in Upper Freehold Township (UFT) scheduled for Thurs., 11/17/11 was canceled due to overcrowding. The crowd, both proponents and opponents, along with half a dozen state troopers and a slew of media, exceeded the 80-person capacity of the room.

The Township Committee, on the advice of its lawyer said the meeting would be rescheduled to the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at 7 PM, either at the local high school or the first aid squad building.

Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center has plans to locate its marijuana production facility on preserved farmland here. Concerns that neighbors voiced had to do with security and lower property values.

On the other hand, Ralph Gale, a farmer who lived right next door (next field?) to the proposed ATC had no trouble with it. Allentown resident Rachel Cotrino voiced strong support for the ATC being sited in her township. Also noted in the audience was outspoken medical marijuana advocate Don McGrath, whose property borders UFT. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patient Chuck Kwiatkowski came to say how marijuana is more effective than any other drug in allowing him to overcome the devastating symptoms of MS, and perform the simple activities of daily living. He spoke to the news media instead of the committee.

There is a lot of fear about marijuana that is caused by misinformation. The people who are opposed to the ATCs seem to believe that marijuana is a foreign and toxic substance that may soon be introduced into their township. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Monitoring the Future survey has shown, for the last thirty years in a row, that nearly all high school seniors in New Jersey have found marijuana “easy to get” or “fairly easy to get.” The only people who lack consistent and reliable access to marijuana are legitimate patients.

The security that is mandated by the State of New Jersey for these ATCs can best be described as “over-reactive.” It is far greater security than is required of pharmacies, liquor stores and bars, all of which carry far more dangerous and addicting drugs than marijuana.

The opposition’s concern about dropping property values is laughable, considering the collapse of the “housing bubble.” The ATC is regulated to be discreet, professional and secure.

Moreover, this opposition to a tightly regulated production facility for a medicinal herb is most cruel. It is certain to result in continued delay in bringing marijuana’s therapeutic relief to our state’s most desperately ill. It is certain to cause harm to patients.

The only question is why state officials won’t appear at these local meetings to allay the fears of the communities? Barring that, the state should finish the zoning rules it started in its extensive set of regulations and establish that ATCs may be permitted in any zone that allows pharmacies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ATC Seeks Support in Upper Freehold

Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center will be facing a lot of opposition in Upper Freehold Township when they discuss their plans for a medical marijuana production facility at a Township Committee Meeting on Thursday, November 17 starting at 6:00 PM.

The meeting will take place at 314 ROUTE 539, CREAM RIDGE, NJ 08514 TELE: 609-758-7738.

There has already been considerable local concern and discussion.

Dr. Curtis Byrnes, a local physician, has asked to be heard regarding Breakwater ATC locating in Upper Freehold Township (UFT). Dr. Byrnes has written an Open Letter where he says that there will be "Adverse effects on property values and rising local police costs" should Breakwater be allowed to locate in UFT.

Andrew Zaleski from Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center has reached out to patients who could benefit from medical marijuana and invited them to testify at the meeting. He believes the focus of the meeting will be on crime (security issues), home values and medicinal value of medical marijuana.

The meeting promises to be lively.

Contact info for Andrew Zaleski:

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