Monday, December 5, 2011

Medicinal Marijuana Head Faces Great Obstacles

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey (CMMNJ) notes with interest the appointment by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) of John H. O'Brien Jr., a 26-year veteran and retired lieutenant of the New Jersey State Police, as director of New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP).

CMMNJ has a deep respect for the superior officers of the New Jersey State Police. We believe they have a clear understanding of the rights of the citizens that they serve and protect. CMMNJ certainly wishes Mr. O’Brien success in his new position, and we hope that he will be true to his word and “bring the program to full implementation” in a timely manner.

Having said that, CMMNJ has serious doubts that the MMP can ever be meaningfully implemented during the Christie administration.

The appointment of a person with a law enforcement background as opposed to a health care background is another example of the fear from the Christie administration that permeates every aspect of this program. This fear is making the program unworkable.

CMMNJ has made a very detailed critique of the rules that this program will operate under. This critique was submitted to DHSS and is available at:

Nonetheless, the DHSS adopted its rules virtually unchanged. The DHSS has:
  • arbitrarily capped the THC content of the marijuana that will be available to patients;
  • started a physician registry that has dissuaded all but 1% of New Jersey licensed physicians from participating;
  • insisted on layer upon layer of security for Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) that is far greater than what is required for pharmacies;
  • micromanaged the ATCs and interfered with local zoning issues;
  • made it impossible to add qualifying conditions to the existing law for years to come; and,
  • made it impossible to start the patient registry nearly two full years after the law passed.
The legislature has already declared that these rules are inconsistent with the intent of the legislation. CMMNJ supports the legislative initiative to invalidate a number of these rules.

Additionally, the Board of CMMNJ has endorsed Assembly Bill A4252 which decriminalizes possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana in New Jersey. The bill currently has seventeen sponsors led by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D-25) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-15). CMMNJ has taken this action for the following reasons:
  • nearly two years have passed since the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law, yet not a single patient has received legal medical marijuana;
  • patients continue to be arrested and imprisoned in this state for using medical marijuana illegally to treat their medical conditions; and,
  • countless patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are currently disqualified from participating in New Jersey’s MMP and will continue to be disqualified for the foreseeable future.
CMMNJ notes with concern that marijuana experts have been completely excluded from meaningful participation in the development of the MMP. CMMNJ believes this is like trying to build a bridge without using bridge engineers. The new head of the MMP faces tremendous obstacles in bringing this program to full implementation.

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


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