Monday, February 28, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2/28/2011
The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ)
CONTACT: 609 394 2137, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charges dropped against NJ medical marijuana patient; Christie’s broken promise
Following the prosecutor’s recommendation a judge has dismissed minor marijuana possession charges against a resident waiting to register for the medical cannabis program. David Barnes has his doctor’s support in explaining to law enforcement that his cannabis use was for legitimate medical purposes. Authorities agreed to put the case on hold nearly one year ago so that Barnes could register.
But the special ID cards have not been issued because of continued delays in implementing the compassionate use law. In September 2010 Barnes attended a town hall meeting with Governor Chris Christie to try to find out when he could resolve his case.
Barnes: “I come here today to make a request of you…it’s an either/or request: either A) Require the Department of Health and Senior Services to issue the patient registry cards on October 1st or October 15th, which is the end of the delay that the Legislature gave them 3 months ago. Or barring that I’d like to see an Executive Order come out of your office barring the prosecution of people like me; when I leave my house I carry letters from my doctors attesting to the fact that I am a qualified patient under the NJ compassionate use law.”
Governor Christie’s reply: “Thank you first of all really for the cogent and respectful way you presented the issue. Um, fact is that in October I think we’re going to be ready to do what you’re talking about.”
Christie went on to explain the delays already holding up the program last fall but then added: “I said during the campaign that I favored people being able to use marijuana for a legitimate medical purpose …and that’s what I want to make sure is available…that the compassionate use is really a compassionate use. So I think you can tell the judge when you see him that you’ll have your card in October. So give us the deference we need for the statutes and you should be able to get those charges dismissed…and lastly I wish you the best in terms of your health because that’s what all this is about.”
NJN captured the entire exchange between David Barnes and Chris Christie, the video can be seen on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k2V2HOoGbY
As of Feb 28, 2011 not a single patient has been registered for the medical marijuana program in New Jersey.
Barnes reported to the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) that his charges were dismissed last week.
“Justice was truly served by the prosecutor and the judge, who agreed that it did not serve the interests of the State or the ends of justice to continue prosecuting a qualified patient, while policy suffers delay at the hands of politics in Trenton,” he said in an email yesterday.
Allan Marain Esq. of New Brunswick, attorney for Mr. Barnes, issued this statement today.
“I lament that David had to be arrested and endure this legal nightmare. During his gubernatorial campaign Chris Christie stated that he supported medical marijuana. It was that statement of support that helped him become governor. Now, comfortably in office, he turns a deaf ear to the sick and the dying while hypocritically continuing to mouth his support.”
Sunday, February 27, 2011
In support of House Bill 291, “Public Health--Medical Marijuana”
By: Kenneth R. Wolski, RN, MPA
February 28, 2011
Currently, I am Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey. (CMMNJ). CMMNJ is a 501(c)(3) corporation. Our mission is to educate the public about the benefits of medical marijuana. I co-founded CMMNJ in 2003 with Jim Miller, whose wife, Cheryl, was an MS patient who died before she could ever legally use medical marijuana.
Accordingly, I am presenting to this committee hyperlinks to:
• A documentary that CMMNJ produced entitled, “Marijuana is Medicine.” This 26 minute film tells the story of patients and healthcare providers who are struggling with outdated drug laws. It is available in three parts. See also, Part II and Part III.
• The story of Cheryl Miller from a booklet entitled “Patients in the Crossfire” that was produced in 2004 by the California-based organization, Americans for Safe Access. This booklet tells the personal stories of patients whose lives were uprooted by the government’s refusal to acknowledge the science that supports medical marijuana.
In 2004 the American Nurses Association (ANA) adopted a Position Statement on "Providing Patients Safe Access to Marijuana/Cannabis." The ANA recognized that:
• marijuana has been used medicinally for centuries;
• patients should have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis; and,
• marijuana has been shown to be effective for a wide range of symptoms and conditions.
The ANA supports legislation to remove criminal penalties including arrest and imprisonment for bona fide patients and prescribers of therapeutic marijuana/cannabis. The ANA supports federal and state legislation to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug. The ANA represents 2.7 million RN's in the U.S. RN’s are the largest group of health care professionals and we are, according to Gallup polls, the most trusted profession in the nation.
I have no doubt that medical marijuana will eventually be permitted throughout the U.S. There is too much logic, common sense, compassion and science that supports it. Logic says that doctors prescribe far more dangerous and addicting drugs than marijuana every day; common sense says that this issue ought to be decided in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship, in the best interest of the patient; compassion says that no patient should suffer needlessly; and there is a wealth of scientific evidence that supports the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.
I have reviewed House Bill 291, Public Health--Medical Marijuana, and I would like to share with you New Jersey's experience, as the Maryland bill closely resembles the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act that passed into law in January 2010 in the Garden State.
It has been over one year since the NJ Compassionate Use Act passed into law, and still not a single patient has yet received legal medical marijuana in this state, not a single dispensary is even close to opening, and not a single legal marijuana plant is even growing in this state.
Maryland needs to propose a bill that has at least some chance of actually getting marijuana to qualified patients. A provision for home cultivation is really the only way to guarantee this, as New Jersey's experience proves.
Home cultivation, which is legal in 13 states, guarantees desperate patients access to marijuana therapy. Nor does home cultivation create a significant risk of diversion. Medical marijuana use does not increase non-medical marijuana use, according to the government's own surveys. Home cultivation, moreover, is an important part of health care reform. It empowers patients to produce their own medicine for pennies, and safely control their painful and debilitating symptoms. It allows the patients themselves to take charge of their health issues, under medical supervision, and in a program run by the state health department.
New Jersey's original bill included a provision for home cultivation. Qualified patients who had a state-issued ID card would each be permitted to grow up to six plants. Patients who were unable to grow marijuana for themselves would be able to obtain their medicine from Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs). These ATCs were non-profit collective gardens that would grow up to six plants for each registered patient and the patient would reimburse the ATC for the cost of producing and processing the marijuana. This version of the bill passed in the NJ Senate, and would have provided a very conservative, state-run program of guaranteed access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. Instead, the NJ Assembly removed home cultivation from the bill and changed the nature of the ATCs to a heavily-regulated quasi-pharmacy model. The NJ Department of Health and Senior Services has been trying for the past year to create regulations to enact this model and has yet to be successful. Meanwhile, patients in NJ continue to suffer needlessly. Or, they risk arrest, prosecution and incarceration (along with a host of severe civil penalties) for using a medicine that the State of New Jersey recognizes as a safe and effective treatment for the very debilitating medical condition from which they suffer.
Don't let this happen in Maryland. Since Maryland is clearly serious about providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana to desperately ill patients, it must include a provision for home cultivation. While it is laudable that Maryland's bill will reschedule marijuana in your state, no pharmacy in the country will dispense it until marijuana is rescheduled nationally, and that is years away from happening.
Thank you for your anticipated support of these important patient care issues. With your help we can ensure that no patient in Maryland suffers needlessly or gets imprisoned for following the advice of a physician. And thank you for the opportunity to address this committee.
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org
219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618
Friday, February 25, 2011
February 25, 2011
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: http://www.scribd.com/doc/49541387/DHSS-Revised-regs-2-16-CMMNJ-ASAPNJ
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.
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org
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.”
Friday, February 18, 2011
by Chris Goldstein - A rare standoff between the Legislature and the Governor over the medical marijuana program has now steered New Jersey into uncharted waters within the Constitution.
Governor Chris Christie wants all the medical cannabis in The Garden State to be just three genetic strains, all containing less than 10% THC. The mid-grade pot would also come with orders for the state to intrude into the doctor/patient relationship.
Residents who live here with AIDS, cancer, Crohn’s Disease and other conditions that would qualify want something better from the compassionate use law that passed last year.
The Legislature is backing these potential medical marijuana patients and is currently moving to invalidate the contentious rules. Although the process was threatened under previous administrations no Governor has even taken it this far, with another deadline set to expire on Monday 2/21.
Monday, February 14, 2011
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reported this afternoon that twenty (20) applications were received to operate medical marijuana Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) sites.
The deadline for applications was 4:30PM ET today, 2/14/2011.
A DHSS representative said that the ATC applications will be "reviewed for completeness" and then the applications will be considered public documents.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Dear Supporters, Campaign
Please be advised of the following important updates:
1) REMINDER: The Department of Health and Seniors Services (DHSS) issued a Request for Applications (RFA) to operate and Alternative Treatment Center on Jan. 17th and applications are due next Monday, Feb. 14th. DHSS updated the RFA on Feb. 3rd and the new RFA can be downloaded on the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program’s website at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/med_marijuana.shtml
a. Please note the most substantive change to the RFA is regarding “Criterion 4: Medical Advisory Board) specific considerations, Measure 5” (see text below concerning
i. The applicant shall submit a description of its Medical Advisory Board, including by-laws, setting forth the names and expertise of its members and describing how it will function within the organizational structure of the ATC, consistent with the Rules Related to the Medicinal Marijuana Program. For purposes of this requirement, it is not necessary for the applicant to provide the name of the Medical Advisory Board member who is a registered qualifying patient.
b. DHSS has posted new information on their website including a Frequently Asked Questions section for Alternative Treatment Center applicants, which can be accessed at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/med_marijuana.shtml. It’s important to frequently monitor this site on your own as the state is using this avenue as a means of communicating with the public and announcing updates and/or changes to the program and corresponding documents.
2) DHSS also updated the proposed http://www.state.nj.us/health/med_marijuana.shtml regulations on Feb. 3rd and the new rules can be downloaded on the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program’s website at:
a. Please note, the proposed new rules differ from the rules published in the NJ Register back in Nov. by providing for 6 alternative treatment centers (ATCs) that cultivate and dispense medicinal marijuana, combining the separate application processes for cultivating and dispensing permits into one application for an ATC permit, prohibiting ATC satellite dispensing locations, prohibiting home delivery, and only requiring that the medical conditions originally named in the Compassionate Use Act be resistant to conventional medical therapy in order to qualify as debilitating medical conditions for purposes of a patient obtaining a registry identification card. In addition, the proposed new rules establish a definition for the term, “medical advisory board” to further define this requirement (see definition below).
i. “Medical advisory board” means a five member panel appointed by the ATC for the purpose of providing advice to the ATC on all aspects of its business. The medical advisory board shall:
1. Be comprised of three New Jersey licensed health care professionals, at least one of whom shall be a physician; one patient registered with the ATC; and, one business owner from the same region as the ATC.
i. No ATC owners, employees, officers, or board members shall serve on the medical advisory board.
2. Meet at least two times per calendar year.
3) The Department of Health and Senior Services (the entity responsible for drafting the medical marijuana regulations) has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed new rules which will be held between 10:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. on Monday, March 7, 2011 at the following address:
First Floor Auditorium
Health and Agriculture Building
369 South Warren Street (at Market Street )
Trenton, New Jersey 08608
Please let me know if you are available on March 7th and planning to testify before the department. Many of you have previously mailed in written comments to the department, but orally presenting your feedback on the rules would be most beneficial.
As always, I will keep you updated as things progress. Thanks for all that you do!
Meagan Glaser | Policy Coordinator, New Jersey
Drug Policy Alliance
Voice: | Fax:
Think the drug war is doing more harm than good? Join us!
|The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed medical marijuana regulations.|
10:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. on Monday, March 7, 2011 at the following address:
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
First Floor Auditorium
Health and Agriculture Building
369 South Warren Street (at Market Street )
Trenton, New Jersey 08608
DHSS website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/med_marijuana.shtml
Friday, February 4, 2011
by Chris Goldstein - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) released new information regarding the applications to grow and distribute medical marijuana. Advocacy groups and potential business owners have been pressing DHSS to clarify several points about the process.
New DHSS section: Frequently Asked Questions -- Alternative Treatment Center Applicants
DHSS also updated the RFA document that must be completed and submitted with a $20,000 fee payment.
Link to pdf document : February 3, 2011 – Proposed New Rules for the Medicinal Marijuana Program
DHSS has not yet addressed the current legislative challenge that may invalidate all or part of the proposed regulations for the Medicinal Marijuana Program. If the legislature throws out the regulatory language relating to the requirements for ATCs, parts of the posted RFA could be inapplicable.NJ DHSS Medicinal Marijuana Program website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/
Thursday, February 3, 2011
January 27, 2011
Hon. Nicholas P. Scutari
1514 E. St. Georges Ave.
Linden, New Jersey 07036
Re: Legislative authority over Compassionate Use Regulations
Dear Senator Scutari:
You have the gratitude of tens of thousands of patients for steadfastly supporting them in their struggle for the right to use marijuana when it has been documented to ease their suffering. In January 2010, with the enactment of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, your leadership caused New Jersey to acknowledge abundant scientific evidence and recognize that a patient’s legal right should be in accord with their moral rights. Incredibly, one year after the Act’s passage not one patient has been able to access legal marijuana nor even register as a patient. It is thus obvious that it will take even greater leadership and dedication to implement the law.
As you have emphasized, the required regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Senior Services, too often violate the letter and intention of the Act. These regulations serve to interfere with an effective program and insult patients, caregivers, physicians and those poised to operate alternative treatment centers. Earlier this month, I testified on behalf of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey at the Senate Health Committee Hearing to emphasize the legislature’s authority and obligation under the New Jersey Constitution to respond to this unprecedented situation. Obviously, many provisions of the proposed regulations must be completely eliminated. But that is not sufficient to provide for safe, effective implementation. One cannot build simply by tearing down.
While eliminating offending portions in the 97 pages of substantive language, we in CMMNJ realized it is often necessary to add words or phrases so that otherwise disjointed portions of remaining language could function properly. In my legal opinion, such additions are within the ambit of the New Jersey Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), both of which specifically authorize the legislature to invalidate regulations in whole or part. Initially, it must be recognized that neither the Constitution nor the APA impose any limitation whatsoever on this considerable power to reject regulations. In fact, it would be a significant, inconsistent and illogical limitation to construe those enactments to bar the legislature from inserting necessary additional language as part of its invalidation.
The legislature is superior to the executive in determining whether the regulations proposed by the latter meet the legal intention expressed by the former. Thus, the New Jersey Constitution in Article V, which enumerates the powers and duties of the executive, also sets forth the legislature’s broad and absolute power to invalidate the executive’s regulations. It is simply unfathomable that this constitutionally expressed power would be absurdly limited essentially to the use of an eraser. Such a broad power cannot fail to encompass the right to insert any words, however minimal or necessary to effectuate the invalidation. A limitation of this nature would interfere with the legislature’s overriding power to achieve its statutory aims through the invalidation of ultra vires regulations.
In considering the absolute power to completely invalidate an entire regulation, one may rely on the unassailable philosophical precept that the greater must, by necessity, always include the lesser. It is patently inconsistent to contend the legislature can vacate an entire provision but cannot insert a few words to complete its invalidation of the existing regulation. Moreover, if the legislature is limited to either accepting an entire provision or rejecting it entirely and returning it to the agency in the hope of additional desirable language, the process can too easily devolve into an endless loop. Such a process places an undue and unnecessary burden even on an agency acting in good faith by forcing it to guess at the precise language satisfactory to the legislature. And, if one urges that the legislature can simply request that the agency add certain specific language, it is a pointless punctilious exercise to preclude it from directly inserting such language in a provision that it is empowered to completely eliminate.
As you well know, it is long accepted legal precedent that courts construe enactments to effectuate rather than obstruct their intent. When faced with seemingly contradictory provisions, courts strain to interpret enactments to avoid rendering them meaningless or ineffective. In invalidating portions of a regulation, especially a long complex one, the task would be virtually impossible without the ability to add minimal but necessary words or phrases. The alternative is to discard whole portions of the regulation in their entirety, demand a rewrite and wait for a re-promulgation that one hopes will cure numerous defects. At best this is wasteful and contrary to the public interest. In this circumstance, with thousands of patients suffering daily, it is unnecessarily cruel to adopt such an approach.
One year after the Act’s passage, deliberate administrative resistance has resulted in not one patient benefiting in any way. The second agency proposal is only marginally better on a few points than its original one but remains far too defective and offensive to accept as a reasonable regulation for compassionate use. No patient should bear the burden of
trusting or even expecting the agency to do any better on its third attempt, or its fourth, ad infinitum. The agency regulations as initially written and recently revised evince a clear prejudice against the efficacy of medical marijuana. Moreover, they treat the process and all involved as if medical marijuana remains a criminal enterprise rather than a statutorily authorized right. The administration’s message here is abundantly transparent: their regulations will supersede the intent of the law and contravene the compassion necessitated by the Act. Eliminating offensive provisions in such a regulation, while necessary, is insufficient to result in one that serves all those covered by the Act.
Strikeouts alone cannot overcome the adverse mindset embodied in 97 pages of hostile, overly detailed regulations. An effective invalidation in this case requires adding what cumulatively may be the equivalent of perhaps one page of text. This is a de minimus act and one that is well within the legislature’s absolute power over regulations. It is certainly far less obtrusive and serves the goal far better than the obliteration of entire sections of the regulation that otherwise could remain as revised. Under the current circumstances, the right to add words as part of the invalidation is an absolute necessity if the intent of the statute is to ever be fulfilled.
Long-suffering patients should not be made to endure the demonstrated futility of returning the regulations to the Department of Heath and Senior Services for what will be its third try. All it will do is lengthen the already intolerable delay. We are confident in ensuring the legislature’s ability to add necessary language in exercising the invalidation right granted it by our Constitution. It is imperative that the legislature act so as to create a regulation that is fair and effective and do so without permitting further foreseeable impediments to implementation.
Very truly yours,
Edward R. Hannaman, Esq.
Board Member CMMNJ