Friday, September 30, 2011

CMMNJ October 2011 Agenda & Sept. Minutes








Monthly Public Meeting Agenda

Lawrence Twp. Library (Mercer County) Room #1
Tuesday, October 11, 2011; 7:00 PM -- 9:00 PM

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

NJ's Medicinal Marijuana Program is moving forward “expeditiously”? Latest count: 99 doctors have registered with DHSS. No ATC’s open yet. No ID cards issued yet. CMMNJ Board votes to support A4252 which decriminalizes 15 grams or less of marijuana in NJ.

John Wilson released from state prison on bail pending NJ Supreme Court appeal. NJ medical marijuana patient, activist & CMMNJ volunteer Colleen Begley faces prison term. Ed Forchion, NJWeedman, trial slated for 10/18/11 in Burlington Co.; seeks to have drug charges dropped.

Upcoming events: Community Day, Lawrence Twp, 10/2/11, 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm. NORML NJ meeting in Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon, Trenton, 10/10/11 at 7 pm. Lecture: “Medical Marijuana Update” for Bayada Nurses, Overlook Hospital, Summit, NJ, 10/19/11, 9:00 am to 10:30 am. “NJ Monthly” article on medical marijuana is due in the November 2011 issue.

Recent events: Midwest Harvest Fest., Madison, WI, 10/1 & 2. Boston Freedom Rally 9/17.

Treasury report: Checking: $3881; PayPal: $3072. 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.)

The meeting in November 2011 will be held at the Green Party Headquarters, 855 Berkeley Ave., Trenton, NJ.

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 www.cmmnj.org



Monthly Public Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, September 13, 2011; 7:00 PM -- 9:00 PM

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

CMMNJ extends condolences to Chris Goldstein on the recent death in his family.

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. Some ATC applicants are appealing the awards process.

John Wilson imprisoned; files NJ Supreme Court appeal; family says he is not receiving proper treatment in prison. CMMNJ calls for National MS Clinical Trial of Medical Marijuana. CMMNJ volunteer Colleen Begley faces prison term. Ed Forchion, NJWeedman, seeks to have drug charges dropped. Stroke victim Mary P. used medical marijuana on her doctor’s recommendation: “It changed my life remarkably,” she said.

Recent events: Chris Goldstein on NJ Today 7/8/11. “NJ Medical Marijuana Documentary” at the Princeton Public Library, 7/21/11. Ken Wolski on News12 NJ’s “Power and Politics” 7/22/11. Louis Santiago debates medical marijuana on Hispanic Int. TV Network (HITN), 7/26/11. NORML NJ meeting Trenton, NJ 8/8/11. NJ State Police Supt. responds to 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: Great Midwest Harvest Festival, Madison, WI, Oct. 1 & 2. Boston Freedom Rally, 9/17/11. NORML NJ meetings at Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon, Trenton, NJ, 2nd Monday of each month, 7:00 pm. Benefit party to be held there 12/2/11 from 7 pm to midnight. Help update cmmnj.org.

Treasury report: Checking: $4041; PayPal: $3043.

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.) The meeting in November will be held at the Green Party Headquarters, 855 Berkeley Ave., Trenton, NJ. 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 www.cmmnj.org

Below is a Letter-to-the-editor (LTE) published 9/22/11 in The Times (of Trenton, NJ). It is also available at: http://www.nj.com/times-opinion/index.ssf/2011/09/times_of_trenton_letters_to_th_108.html

Medical marijuana delays deny relief to patients

On March 21, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) issued a release announcing the “Licensing of Six Nonprofit Alternative Treatment Centers for (the) Medicinal Marijuana Program.” Now, nearly six months later, the DHSS says that despite the March announcement, no licenses or permits have actually been issued (“Marijuana program’s leaders criticized — Background checks, progress questioned,” Sept. 20). Gov. Chris Christie said in a July news conference that he expected medical marijuana to be available to patients by the end of the year. This can never happen if the licenses have not even been issued yet. It is clearly just another piece of medical marijuana misinformation from the Christie administration.

Meanwhile, qualified patients continue to suffer and die in New Jersey without the pain relief and quality of life improvement that marijuana can bring to them. Patients suffer in other ways, too.

Multiple sclerosis patient John Wilson recently 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.

The delays in implementing the medical marijuana program are intolerable and often have tragic consequences. If the state can’t get its act together, let qualified patients or caregivers grow six plants at home, as the original bill stipulated.

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

Resolution of support for A4252, which “Decriminalizes possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana” in New Jersey

Jim Miller, co-founder and President of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc. (CMMNJ) said:

“CMMNJ should support A4252 which decriminalizes possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less because it will provide a level of support for thousands of sick, disabled, and dying patients which New Jersey's medical marijuana law will not provide by virtue of their statuary exclusion.”

“At least pain patients with an ‘unapproved source of pain’ will not be subjected to criminal proceedings for possession of the same amount of marijuana as a one week supply allowed to patients in the exclusive list allowed by law. This holds true for patients who would be approved in other states with medical marijuana law, but not in their home state of New Jersey.”

Since CMMNJ was founded, Board members of this organization have taken a strictly neutral stance on the issue of broader legalization of marijuana and/or drugs in general. We neither support it nor oppose it. Though many of our supporters favor broader legalization of drugs, many other supporters do not. The mission of CMMNJ has been to educate the public about the medical benefits of marijuana.

At this time 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 these reasons:

1.) 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; and,

2.) Patients continue to be arrested and imprisoned in this state for using medical marijuana illegally to treat their medical conditions; and,

3.) Countless patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are currently disqualified from participating in New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) and will continue to be disqualified for the foreseeable future.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana law is a failure. The original bill was introduced into the legislature in January 2005. After five years of debate, the bill was signed into law in January 2010. Yet as of the autumn of 2011, not a single patient or caregiver in New Jersey has received an ID card from the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) as provided for in the law. Not a single legal marijuana plant is growing in New Jersey, and not a single Alternative Treatment Center has opened its doors.

Meanwhile, patients continue to be arrested and imprisoned for using marijuana to treat debilitating and even fatal medical conditions here. The state wanted to impose a 20 year prison sentence on John Wilson for growing marijuana to treat his incurable and painful multiple sclerosis (MS). Moreover, the state refused to allow Wilson to testify at his trial that the marijuana that he was growing was being used solely to treat his MS. Wilson is appealing his conviction, but he has already begun serving a five year prison sentence in the harsh confines of both the Somerset County Jail and the state prison system. The painful irony in this case is that the State now recognizes marijuana as a treatment for MS, but Wilson’s crime is that he recognized it before the State did.

Even if the DHSS’s MMP ever gets operational, it is wildly deficient in properly identifying patients who can benefit from medical marijuana in New Jersey. Chronic pain, for example, is considered a qualifying condition only if it is associated with HIV/AIDS or cancer. All other cases of chronic pain are disqualified. There are an estimated 75 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, about one in four people. Given New Jersey’s population of over 8 million people, that means that over two million New Jerseyans could benefit from medical marijuana for chronic pain alone. All but a handful of these patients are disqualified.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four Americans suffer from mental illness at some time in their lives. Many of these patients could benefit from marijuana therapy. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that marijuana can be useful in the management of depression, mania, crippling anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even some cases of schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Current research has even identified the specific component of marijuana that has anti-psychotic properties. Moreover, marijuana’s safety margin is certainly greater than those of the accepted and traditional pharmaceutical interventions for these maladies.

Yet no mental or emotional conditions qualify for marijuana therapy in New Jersey.

The DHSS is empowered to add qualifying conditions at any time. Yet the DHSS has proposed a most cumbersome process to do so in the regulations that they will soon adopt. CMMNJ predicts that it will be a minimum of five years before the chronic pain category is expanded and a minimum of ten years before mental or emotional conditions are added as qualifying conditions for marijuana therapy in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, legitimate patients continue to be dragged through the legal system and even imprisoned simply for following the advice of their physicians. Millions more suffer needlessly while a viable therapeutic alternative is readily at hand.

It is for these reasons that CMMNJ supports A4252 which decriminalizes possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana in New Jersey. Marijuana’s therapeutic potential is enormous. Who are the legitimate patients that can benefit from medical marijuana? Clearly, the criminal justice system is not qualified to determine this. Nor have the state legislature or the DHSS shown that they are up to the task. Let the medical community in New Jersey determine who is using marijuana appropriately, as medicine, in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship.


MEDIA ALERT: Medical Marijuana Patient John Wilson Faces Bail Hearing Thursday, September 29, 2011

WHO: Multiple sclerosis (MS) Patient John Ray Wilson

WHAT: Faces bail hearing

WHEN: 1:30 PM, Thursday, September 29, 2011

WHERE: Somerset County Courthouse – Somerville, NJ—with Judge Marino

WHY: Pending appeal to New Jersey Supreme Court

CONTACT: Ken Wolski 609 394 2137, Chris Goldstein 267 702 3731, William Buckman 856 608 9797 www.cmmnj.org

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patient and medical marijuana user John Ray Wilson will appear in the Somerset County Courthouse before Judge Marino for a bail hearing tomorrow, Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 1:30 PM. Wilson is currently imprisoned at CRAF, the Central Reception and Assignment Facility for the New Jersey State Prison system, located in Trenton, NJ. Wilson had been free on bond pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence of five years, but an Appellate Court upheld his conviction of “manufacturing” marijuana in late July. He was incarcerated on August 24, 2011. Attorney William Buckman has filed a petition to the State Supreme Court. The bail hearing tomorrow will determine if Wilson can remain with his family as the Supreme Court appeal is considered. Mr. Buckman’s office reports that the State intends to vigorously oppose the release of Wilson.

“New Jersey already has some of the most draconian laws in the nation with respect to marijuana, costing taxpayers outrageous sums to incarcerate nonviolent, otherwise responsible individuals-- as well as in this case -- the sick and infirm,” said Buckman. “As it stands, the case now allows a person who grows marijuana to be exposed to up to 20 years in jail, even if that marijuana is strictly for his or her own medical use. No fair reading of the law would ever sanction this result.”

Wilson’s conviction in January 2010 came just as New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act passed into law. The state now recognizes MS as a qualifying condition for marijuana therapy; however, the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program is not operational yet.

Depending on the outcome of the hearing, Wilson may be freed pending his appeal or must continue serving his sentence. Wilson’s father, Ray, reports that John is scheduled to be transferred from CRAF to maximum security Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ to serve the rest of his sentence.

CONTACT: Ken Wolski 609 394 2137, Chris Goldstein 267 702 3731, William Buckman 856 608 9797 www.cmmnj.org

DHSS says no Alternative Treatment Center permits have been issued yet

WHO: Donna Leusner, DHSS spokeswoman

WHAT: Said no Alternative Treatment Center permits have been issued yet

WHEN: September 19, 2011

WHERE: Trenton, NJ

WHY: "The process is not over," Leusner said.

The Star-Ledger reported yesterday that not a single Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) has been issued a permit to operate by the 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 in New Jersey. Extensive applications were required to be submitted by 2/14/11, accompanied by a $20,000 application fee. The DHSS RFA noted that on 3/21/11there 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 Donna Leusner, the department’s spokeswoman, 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 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
609.394.2137 www.cmmnj.org ohamkrw@aol.com

NorthJersey.com: Medical marijuana out of reach for City man with epilepsy: http://www.northjersey.com/news/state/politics/129936698_Medical_marijuana_out_of_reach_for_City_man_with_epilepsy_.html?page=all

Resolution of support for A4252, which “Decriminalizes possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana” in New Jersey








Jim Miller, co-founder and President of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc. (CMMNJ) said:

“CMMNJ should support A4252 which decriminalizes possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less because it will provide a level of support for thousands of sick, disabled, and dying patients which New Jersey's medical marijuana law will not provide by virtue of their statuary exclusion.”

“At least pain patients with an ‘unapproved source of pain’ will not be subjected to criminal proceedings for possession of the same amount of marijuana as a one week supply allowed to patients in the exclusive list allowed by law. This holds true for patients who would be approved in other states with medical marijuana law, but not in their home state of New Jersey.”

Since CMMNJ was founded, Board members of this organization have taken a strictly neutral stance on the issue of broader legalization of marijuana and/or drugs in general. We neither support it nor oppose it. Though many of our supporters favor broader legalization of drugs, many other supporters do not. The mission of CMMNJ has been to educate the public about the medical benefits of marijuana.

At this time 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 these 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; and,
  • 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 Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) and will continue to be disqualified for the foreseeable future.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana law is a failure. The original bill was introduced into the legislature in January 2005. After five years of debate, the bill was signed into law in January 2010. Yet as of the autumn of 2011, not a single patient or caregiver in New Jersey has received an ID card from the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) as provided for in the law. Not a single legal marijuana plant is growing in New Jersey, and not a single Alternative Treatment Center has opened its doors.

Meanwhile, patients continue to be arrested and imprisoned for using marijuana to treat debilitating and even fatal medical conditions here. The state wanted to impose a 20 year prison sentence on John Wilson for growing marijuana to treat his incurable and painful multiple sclerosis (MS). Moreover, the state refused to allow Wilson to testify at his trial that the marijuana that he was growing was being used solely to treat his MS. Wilson is appealing his conviction, but he has already begun serving a five year prison sentence in the harsh confines of both the Somerset County Jail and the state prison system. The painful irony in this case is that the State now recognizes marijuana as a treatment for MS, but Wilson’s crime is that he recognized it before the State did.

Even if the DHSS’s MMP ever gets operational, it is wildly deficient in properly identifying patients who can benefit from medical marijuana in New Jersey. Chronic pain, for example, is considered a qualifying condition only if it is associated with HIV/AIDS or cancer. All other cases of chronic pain are disqualified. There are an estimated 75 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, about one in four people. Given New Jersey’s population of over 8 million people, that means that over two million New Jerseyans could benefit from medical marijuana for chronic pain alone. All but a handful of these patients are disqualified.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four Americans suffer from mental illness at some time in their lives. Many of these patients could benefit from marijuana therapy. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that marijuana can be useful in the management of depression, mania, crippling anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even some cases of schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Current research has even identified the specific component of marijuana that has anti-psychotic properties. Moreover, marijuana’s safety margin is certainly greater than those of the accepted and traditional pharmaceutical interventions for these maladies.

Yet no mental or emotional conditions qualify for marijuana therapy in New Jersey.

The DHSS is empowered to add qualifying conditions at any time. Yet the DHSS has proposed a most cumbersome process to do so in the regulations that they will soon adopt. CMMNJ predicts that it will be a minimum of five years before the chronic pain category is expanded and a minimum of ten years before mental or emotional conditions are added as qualifying conditions for marijuana therapy in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, legitimate patients continue to be dragged through the legal system and even imprisoned simply for following the advice of their physicians. Millions more suffer needlessly while a viable therapeutic alternative is readily at hand.

It is for these reasons that CMMNJ supports A4252 which decriminalizes possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana in New Jersey. Marijuana’s therapeutic potential is enormous. Who are the legitimate patients that can benefit from medical marijuana? Clearly, the criminal justice system is not qualified to determine this. Nor have the state legislature or the DHSS shown that they are up to the task. Let the medical community in New Jersey determine who is using marijuana appropriately, as medicine, in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Medical Marijuana Patient John Wilson Faces Bail Hearing 9/29/11









WHO: Multiple sclerosis (MS) Patient John Ray Wilson

WHAT: Faces bail hearing

WHEN: 1:30 PM, Thursday, September 29, 2011

WHERE: Somerset County Courthouse – Somerville, NJ—with Judge Marino

WHY: Appeal of conviction and sentence to New Jersey Supreme Court

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patient and medical marijuana user John Ray Wilson will appear in the Somerset County Courthouse before Judge Marino for a bail hearing tomorrow, Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 1:30 PM. Wilson is currently imprisoned at CRAF, the Central Reception and Assignment Facility for the New Jersey State Prison system, located in Trenton, NJ. Wilson had been free on bond pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence of five years in state prison, but an Appellate Court upheld his conviction of “manufacturing” marijuana in late July. He was incarcerated on August 24, 2011. Attorney William Buckman has filed a petition to the State Supreme Court. The bail hearing tomorrow will determine if Wilson can remain with his family as the Supreme Court appeal is considered. Mr. Buckman’s office reports that the State intends to vigorously oppose the release of Wilson.

“New Jersey already has some of the most draconian laws in the nation with respect to marijuana, costing taxpayers outrageous sums to incarcerate nonviolent, otherwise responsible individuals-- as well as in this case -- the sick and infirm,” said Buckman. “As it stands, the case now allows a person who grows marijuana to be exposed to up to 20 years in jail, even if that marijuana is strictly for his or her own medical use. No fair reading of the law would ever sanction this result.”

Wilson’s conviction in January 2010 came just as New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act passed into law. The state now recognizes MS as a qualifying condition for marijuana therapy; however, the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program is not operational yet.

Depending on the outcome of the hearing, Wilson may be freed pending his appeal or must continue serving his sentence. Wilson’s father, Ray, reports that John is scheduled to be transferred from CRAF to maximum security Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ to serve the rest of his sentence.

CONTACT: Ken Wolski 609 394 2137, Chris Goldstein 267 702 3731, William Buckman 856 608 9797 www.cmmnj.org

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Medical marijuana delays deny relief to patients

On March 21, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) issued a release announcing the “Licensing of Six Nonprofit Alternative Treatment Centers for (the) Medicinal Marijuana Program.” Now, nearly six months later, the DHSS says that despite the March announcement, no licenses or permits have actually been issued (“Marijuana program’s leaders criticized — Background checks, progress questioned,” Sept. 20). Gov. Chris Christie said in a July news conference that he expected medical marijuana to be available to patients by the end of the year. This can never happen if the licenses have not even been issued yet. It is clearly just another piece of medical marijuana misinformation from the Christie administration.

Meanwhile, qualified patients continue to suffer and die in New Jersey without the pain relief and quality of life improvement that marijuana can bring to them. Patients suffer in other ways, too.

Multiple sclerosis patient John Wilson recently 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.

The delays in implementing the medical marijuana program are intolerable and often have tragic consequences. If the state can’t get its act together, let qualified patients or caregivers grow six plants at home, as the original bill stipulated.

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

The above LTE was published in The Times of Trenton, NJ on 9/22/11 and is available at:
http://www.nj.com/times-opinion/index.ssf/2011/09/times_of_trenton_letters_to_th_108.html

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
609.394.2137 www.cmmnj.org ohamkrw@aol.com