2011 has been a very active year for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey
(CMMNJ). Unfortunately, it has also been a very frustrating year of delays for New
Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP). Marijuana was officially recognized as
medicine in this state when the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” was
signed into law on January 18, 2010. The law went into effect on October 1, 2010. But in
the entire year of 2011, not a single patient has been issued an ID card by the Department
of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Not a single legal marijuana plant is yet growing in
Many patients have despaired of ever seeing a meaningful MMP during the administration of
Governor Chris Christie.
On January 11, 2011 the DHSS published slightly revised regulations/rules for the MMP on
its web site. The DHSS gave the public three months to respond to these rules. In
addition, the DHSS published a Request for Applications for Alternative Treatment Centers
(ATCs) with a deadline of February 14, 2011 for applicants.
A Senate Health Committee hearing took place on January 20, 2011 where the proposed rules
from the DHSS were roundly and repeatedly denounced.
The DHSS held a Public Hearing on the MMP rules on March 7, 2011 at the Trenton War
Memorial. CMMNJ held a press conference in the War Memorial foyer immediately following
the hearing expressing our concerns.
The DHSS announced on March 21, 2011 that it had awarded permits to six non-profit groups
to start ATCs to grow, process and distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients. The
commissioner and deputy commissioner of DHSS immediately resigned. The governor, through
his attorney general, then imposed a three month delay in the program seeking guidance or
assurance from the federal government.
The public comment period on the DHSS rules ended on April 23, 2011.
CMMNJ met with Attorney General Paula Dow on May 24, 2011 to express our concerns about the
latest delay in the MMP. CMMNJ told A.G. Dow that she was wrong to seek guidance about
medical marijuana from a federal government that does not recognize medical marijuana. Dow
defended her actions saying she could not put state employees at legal risk. CMMNJ argued
that it was the law of the State of New Jersey that needed defending by her office.
In July the governor announced that he had lifted the latest delay and instructed the DHSS
to move forward “expeditiously” with the MMP. On September 18, 2011 the DHSS announced
that no ATC permits were actually awarded in March—the DHSS only approved applications for
ATCs. An extremely detailed vetting process was then introduced for everyone associated
with the ATCs—perhaps the most rigorous vetting process for any state contractor. No ATC p
ermits will actually be awarded until the vetting process is completed.
Seven months after the public comment period ended, the MMP rules were adopted by the DHSS on November 24, 2011. These rules were adopted without a single change, despite the barrage of comments and outrage by patients, marijuana advocates and potential ATC operators. (Only the Board of Medical Examiners saw fit to change any of its proposed rules.) Even the entire state Legislature voted that the rules were not consistent with the intent of the legislation. But the Legislature faltered on its follow through of this initiative—it failed to pass legislation negating at least a few of the rules that would be most damaging to a successful program.
- The 10% cap on THC content and the limit of three strains of marijuana will stay in effect.
- The DHSS-imposed physician registry will also stay. This registry has so far attracted just over 100 New Jersey licensed physicians, or less than 1% of the total number of physicians in the state.
- The prohibition on home delivery to patients continues.
- Patients who can benefit from marijuana but who do not yet qualify will still have to wait for two annual reports to be filed at the DHSS before they can petition to have their medical conditions considered to be approved. The approval process itself seems more destined to frustrate than facilitate.
A retired New Jersey State Police Lieutenant, John O'Brien, was chosen to head the Medicinal Marijuana Program on November 29, 2011. According to Mr. O'Brien the DHSS will begin to accept petitions to add qualifying conditions after the second annual report is filed in October 2012.
Meanwhile, patients continue to be arrested and to face, and to start, long prison terms for their use of medical marijuana in New Jersey. Three court cases in New Jersey are pitting medical marijuana patients against the criminal justice system:
- John Wilson, a multiple sclerosis patient, is appealing his marijuana conviction and unsuccessful appeals court verdict to the New Jersey Supreme Court;
- Ed Forchion (NJWeedman) is counting on “jury nullification” in his upcoming trial for distribution of a pound of marijuana; and,
- Colleen Begley’s lawyers are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s marijuana laws in her upcoming trial.
On a positive note, medical marijuana patient David Barnes had a possession case against him dismissed after he repeatedly spoke out about such injustice.
The CMMNJ Board came out in support of Assembly bill A4252 which decriminalizes 15 grams or less of marijuana in New Jersey. The bill was introduced by Assemblymen Gusciora and Carroll and has bipartisan support in the lower house, but no companion bill yet in the senate.
State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) introduced SCR 120 on May 26, 2011, a resolution that “Urges the Governor to support and advocate for passage of federal Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.”
On July 8, 2011 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rejected the evidence submitted and denied the “Petition to Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana.” In November 2011 the governors of Rhode Island and Washington State submitted a new petition to the DEA to reschedule marijuana.
Local New Jersey communities like Maple Shade and Upper Freehold Township are vigorously opposing ATCs or their production facilities being sited in their communities. The Upper Freehold Township Committee even passed an ordinance designed to ban medical marijuana farming in its community.
Ironically, medical marijuana is enjoying its greatest support in New Jersey. The latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll, published November 30, 2011, shows that 86% of registered voters in New Jersey support making marijuana available for medical purposes. This includes 92 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans.
Jim Miller began a series of trips to Washington, D.C. to educate lawmakers about the federal government’s blocking FDA-approved clinical trials of marijuana for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These veterans have an alarmingly high suicide rate. Marijuana shows great promise in treating PTSD while traditional therapy is ineffective at best.
CMMNJ is grateful for the continuing, active support for medical marijuana in New Jersey from countless individuals and organizations.
CMMNJ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization, incorporated in the State of New Jersey. In 2011, CMMNJ held eleven public monthly meetings. There, Board members and volunteers planned a number of events and educational programs. CMMNJ sent the agenda and minutes of these meetings via e-mail to approximately 2700 supporters each month.
CMMNJ’s 2012 recommendations are to support the efforts to:
- Stop all federal harassment of medical marijuana patients and treatment centers.
- Begin national clinical studies of marijuana for MS and PTSD.
- Reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule.
- Implement the New Jersey Compassionate Use Act in a way that brings timely access of high quality and affordable marijuana to qualified patients in a safe and secure manner.
CMMNJ welcomed Diane Fornbacher to our Board of Directors in 2011. On the CMMNJ Board, Diane joins Chris Goldstein, James Bissell, Peter Rosenfeld, Jim Miller, Edward R. Hannaman, Esq., Svetislav Milic, R.Ph., and Ken Wolski, RN.
Alan Marain, Esq. continues as a valued CMMNJ Advisory Board member.
In 2011 CMMNJ had income of $2301.44 and expenditures $4400.97. CMMNJ ended the year with $3424.15 in its checking account and $3,072.69 in its Paypal account. The Annual Report was filed with the State of New Jersey, and Form was 990-N was filed with the IRS in April.
2012 Public Meetings:
CMMNJ is committed to educating the public about the benefits of safe and legal access to medical marijuana for all patients who can benefit from it. CMMNJ meetings will continue in 2012 at the Lawrence Twp. Library (Mercer County) on the second Tuesday of each month from 7 – 9 PM. (Meeting at the library does not imply endorsement of our issue.)
Major CMMNJ fundraiser planned for 2/24-25/11. Save the dates!
Seventh National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, 4/26-28/12, Tucson, AZ. Conference Theme - The Endocananbinoid System: Clinical Implications for Health Care. See: http://medicalcannabis.com/Clinical-Conferences/2012-tucson-az
Thanks to CMMNJ volunteers!
On behalf of the Board of Directors of CMMNJ, I would like to thank all of our supporters for their tireless efforts throughout the year. As we are an all-volunteer organization, we are nothing without you!
In 2011, CMMNJ representatives attended or appeared at the following:
• PhillyNORML Fundraiser at the Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA 1/20/11.
• Stone Pony, Asbury Park, 4-day music event with the Bouncing Souls, Feb. 9-12.
• ASA Call to Action, 2/19&20/11.
• “Update on Use of Medical Marijuana in NJ” NJ State Nurses Assn. Convention, Atlantic City, 3/31. CEUs awarded to over 70 RNs.
• Senate Health Committee Public Hearing on Medicinal Marijuana Program rules 1/20/11, State House Annex, Trenton.
• Meeting with T. Calcagni, Dir. Of Consumer Affairs, Office of the Attorney General, re: rescheduling marijuana in NJ on 2/15/11, Newark.
• CMMNJ lecture on medical marijuana at Ramapo College (RCNJ-NORML) 3/1/11.
• WXBN interview 3/3/11.
• DHSS Public Hearing on the Medicinal Marijuana Program rules 0n 3/7/11 at the Trenton War Memorial. CMMNJ press conference immediately following the hearing.
• Jahan Marcu lecture at Morristown High School 4/12/11.
• PhillyNORML March and Event at Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia 5/21/11.
• Global Cannabis March, New York City March & Rally at Foley Square, 5/7/11.
• Medical Marijuana Expo, West Atlantic City, 6/25/11.
• Dr. Oz Show with CMMNJ supporters, New York City, 3/29/11.
• TCNJ Journalism Student Documentary Project 3/18/11.
• CMMNJ Board members met with NJ Attorney General Paula Dow and staff, Trenton, 5/24/11.
• Cheryl Miller Memorial Vigil, State House, Trenton, 6/7/11. Vigil was interrupted by State Police and CMMNJ later received an apology from the NJSP.
• Southern Shore Music Festival, Cumberland Co. Fairgrounds, 6/18/11.
• CMMNJ Board Meeting, Collingswood, 6/19/11.
• CMMNJ met with Asw. Linda Stender, who introduced ACR 188 which would invalidate some of the restrictive regulations of the Medicinal Marijuana Program.
• CMMNJ joined a nationwide protest on the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs, State House, Trenton, 6/17/11.
• NJ Medical Marijuana Documentary, screening and discussion, Princeton Public Library, 7/21/11.
• Community Day, Lawrence Twp., NJ, 10/2/11.
• NORML NJ Meeting, Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon, Trenton, 10/10/11 & 11/14/11.
• Lecture: “Medical Marijuana Update,” Bayada Nurses, Overlook Hospital, Summit, NJ, 10/19/11.
• Midwest Harvest Festival, Madison, WI, 10/1-2/11.
• Boston Freedom Rally, Boston, Mass., 9/17/11.
• Chris Goldstein on NJ Today, 7/8/11.
• Ken Wolski on News12 NJ’s “Power and Politics,” 7/22/11.
• Louis Santigo debates medical marijuana on Hispanic International TV Network (HITN) 7/26/11.
• U.S. Medical Marijuana Chamber of Commerce Press Conference at the State House, Trenton on 8/31/11.
• Rally to support medical marijuana patient Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion at Burlington Co. Superior Court, Mt. Holly, 10/18&20/11. (Further rallies delayed until 4/10/12.)
• CMMNJ lecture on medical marijuana at Ramapo College (RCNJ-NORML) 11/10/11.
• Screening and panel discussion of, “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer?” New York City, 11/10/11.
• The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Community Fest, 10/29/11.
• Home Grown Radio Interview, 10/25/11.
2011 CMMNJ publications and videos:
· Open Letter to NJ Legislators: Re: The Medicinal Marijuana Program rules1/3/11.
· The New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a public hearing on January 20, 2011 on Resolution SCR 130, part of a constitutional process to re-write overly restrictive rules for the Medicinal Marijuana Program. CMMNJ sent out a press release and CMMNJ supporters testified at the hearing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYh4o7Ur-80&feature=player_embedded &http://cmmnj.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html
· CMMNJ published an extensive critique of the proposed DHSS rules.
· “Opinion: Compromise needed on medical marijuana” (Sen. Scutari) 12/27/10.
· “Medicinal Marijuana Program Changes Urged,” 2/25/11.
· “NJ: State responds to medical marijuana questions,” 2/4/11.
· “DHSS mum about Medicinal Marijuana Program Conflicts,” 2/2/11.
· “Nurses Fight for Viable Medical Marijuana Program,” Nursing Spectrum, 1/24/11.
· “Medical Marijuana Group Responds to DHSS Resignations,” 3/28/11.
· “Wasting precious time for medicinal marijuana program,” Times Op Ed, 2/28/11.
· “Open Letter to Gov. Christie from Justin Alpert, Esq.,” 2/21/11.
· “New Jersey Medical Marijuana ATC Applications Released” 4/13/11, and posted by CMMNJ at: http://www.scribd.com/NJcannabisDocs
· “John Wilson’s Appeal Denied,” 7/26/11.
· “N.J. should allow medical marijuana home cultivation,” Times, Op Ed, 6/27/11.
· “Medical marijuana and the case of a Jersey MS patient,” Times, Op Ed, 8/24/11.
· “MS Society: Support National Clinical Cannabis Trial,” 8/8/11.
· “Medical Marijuana Delays Deny relief to Patients,” Times, LTE, 9/22/11.
· CMMNJ featured in NJ Monthly article, “Weeding out the pain,” Nov. 2011.
· “Corporate cannabis comes to Burlington County,” 10/16/11.
· “Medical Marijuana Needed for MS Patients,” LTE, Atlantic Highlands Herald, 10/18/11.
· “NJ Medical Marijuana Patient Faces Seven Years in Prison,” 10/12/11.
· “PTSD Marijuana Study for Veterans Stalled by Feds,” 11/29/11.
· “NJ DHSS adopts rules for Medicinal Marijuana Program,” 11/24/11.
· “ATC Meeting Rescheduled Due to Overcrowding,” 11/18/11.
· “ATC Seeks Support in Upper Freehold,” 11/16/11.
· “Jim Miller travels to D.C. on behalf of Veterans with PTSD,” 12/12/11.
· “Medicinal Marijuana Head Faces Great Obstacles,’ 12/5/11.
· “Delay unconscionable on N.J.’s medical marijuana program,” Press of Atlantic City, 11/23/11.
· “Upper Freehold’s plan to ban medical marijuana farms relies on flawed federal law,” Times, Op Ed, 12/28/11.
December 29, 2011