Thursday, April 18, 2013

Joseph D’Souza’s Trial

If you think medical marijuana patients are no longer getting arrested in New Jersey for possession of marijuana, ask Joseph D’Souza.

Mr. D’Souza now has both a medical marijuana ID card and an arrest record for the first time in his life.

Mr. D’Souza, at 54 years of age, is a survivor of three separate bouts of cancer.  His treatment included chemotherapy, radiation therapy and multiple surgeries.  His face is permanently disfigured from surgery and he suffers from chronic pain as a result of the cancers.  He can no longer work—he’s on disability.  He qualifies for medical marijuana therapy in New Jersey and, in fact, he has a Medicinal Marijuana Program ID card from the state’s Department of Health.

Mr. D’Souza’s car was legally parked in Bayonne on February 12th when the police arrived.  His vehicle was searched and the police found a small amount of marijuana—less than a gram. Mr. D’Souza said that the marijuana belonged to a passenger.  But because Mr. D’Souza was the driver of the car he was arrested for possession of marijuana.  He is being punished because someone who obtained marijuana illegally left him holding the bag.

He is outraged that he has an ID card that would allow him to legally possess marijuana but he cannot obtain this medicine because of the months-long wait at the only Alternative Treatment Center that is open in the state.  Mr. D’Souza said that he has had his ID card for over four months.

Now Mr. D’Souza feels tremendous stress at being dragged through the criminal justice system.  He faces imprisonment and fines he cannot afford.  Mr. D’Souza also said there were eight police cars surrounding his car when he was searched and arrested, and a drug dog was brought out.  He believes this is a shameful waste of police resources.

He’s right.

In the absence of a fully functioning Medicinal Marijuana Program, New Jersey must decriminalize marijuana.  The entire Assembly agreed to this in June 2012 and the Senate should take action on this now.  Governor Christie has said that he would veto any decriminalization bill that made it to his desk.  Mr. D’Souza hopes the governor changes his mind.

Despite acknowledging the failure of the War on Drugs, the governor wants to continue to arrest 20,000 people in New Jersey each year for marijuana offenses.  Most of these arrests, like Mr. D’Souza’s, involve possession of small amounts of marijuana.  It makes no sense.

Moreover, no one knows how many of these arrestees are using marijuana medicinally.  It will be decades before New Jersey recognizes the full extent of marijuana's therapeutic potential.  Meanwhile, we must stop arresting people like Mr. D’Souza.

If you would like to show support for Mr. D’Souza, he is scheduled to have his second appearance at Bayonne Municipal Court on May 9, 2013 at 9:00 A.M.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"What would Cheryl do?" Medical marijuana and MS

The Greater Delaware Valley chapter of the National MS Society unceremoniously pulled the plug on the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey (CMMNJ) after originally offering us a table at their March 23rd "Beef and Beer" fundraiser in Philadelphia. They waited until I showed up to have a volunteer tell me that there was no table available, and when pressed for an explanation it was explained to me that someone associated with Clear Channel Outdoor threatened to "pull sponsorship" if CMMNJ was allowed to distribute information about medical marijuana at the event. So they acquiesced to coercion and promptly sent me packing.

In order to fully understand how unacceptable that is to me, I find it necessary to share some otherwise very personal information. I say this especially to the people running the show at the MS Society's Greater Delaware Valley Chapter, whom I will contacting and offering a link to this blog as well as the one preceding it. This way, they will at least have the benefit of being aware of my intentions ahead of time, unlike the blind side they provided me with.

Although it was almost a decade ago, I remember June 4th, 2003 as if it were yesterday. It was a Wednesday. It was also the day that I had to tell my wife that she was about to die. Two days earlier we had checked Cheryl into the hospital because a weekend bout of chest congestion was causing her to breathe more rapidly than normal. We were assuming that she might need some IV antibiotics, and maybe some nebulizer treatments and additional IV fluids. There had been a noticeable decline in her already compromised condition over the previous few months and I wasn't taking any chances. Multiple sclerosis already had a formidable list of conquests over Cheryl's rapidly weakening body and I didn't want to see that list grow further.

I was sitting with Cheryl while she slept when a nurse called me into the hallway. She informed me that Cheryl had lost her ability to swallow properly. She was slowly aspirating liquid into her lungs and would be needing a feeding tube to survive. So this was it. It had finally come time for me to stand up for Cheryl one last time. She had been very clear about her wish to have no extraordinary means taken to prolong the inevitable. Having no feeding tube was at the top of her list, and it was up to me to make sure that request was honored. Cheryl had lived her life with dignity, and she wanted to die with dignity.

I went over to the chair by her bed and sat there watching her sleep. She had endured so much during the two decades that I had known her, even beyond her struggle with MS. Her youngest son, Ricky, died from an accidental gunshot to the head 20 years earlier and her only daughter, Deena, had been gone for four years, having been killed in a car accident in Oklahoma. Beyond all of that, she suffered physically every time she painfully put her deteriorating body on display while publicly challenging medical marijuana prohibitionists to explain their views to her personally. She would use civil disobedience as a tool to embarrass them when they refused.

When she finally woke up I told her that I had something important to tell her...that she was about to be with Ricky and Deena again. She looked puzzled at first, then she closed her eyes and acknowledged my meaning with a slight smile and a nod of her head. She missed them so much and she believed that they would all be together again someday, and here I was telling her that day had finally come. Then Cheryl opened her eyes, turned her head slightly to look at me, and and softly said, "Aww honey...I'm sorry." Her concern for MY well-being at a time like that would surprise nobody who knew her. It was also a transition to something else that I needed to tell her while there was still time. I had made Cheryl a wedding vow almost 19 years earlier, promising to do for her whatever her arms or legs could not, till death do we part. Now that we were about to part, I felt that she deserved to know that I didn't feel capable of continuing on as a medical marijuana advocate without her. Although Cheryl did what she did for everybody else with multiple sclerosis, I did what I did for her. I relied on her strength to realize my own, and now she would no longer be here to help me keep my eyes on the prize.

She looked a little confused as I tried to explain my doubts about being able to continue on as a medical marijuana advocate without her. Then she softly but definitively said, "But you HAVE to," followed by rhetorically asking me, "Don't you wish someone had told us about medical marijuana long before we found out on our own?" Then she paraphrased what she had first told me a dozen years earlier when I asked her if she wanted me to quietly take care of her with cannabis, or go public with our discovery. "We shouldn't wish that somebody would have done something for us that we aren't willing to do for someone else." In an effort to give her closure, I promised that whenever an opportunity presented itself to spread accurate and up to date medical marijuana information to MS patients, I would ask myself,  "What would Cheryl do?" I told her that if I felt that she would have shown up, I would show up and do the best that I could without her. She died peacefully three days later.

Which brings me to the situation at hand. I have a promise to keep. I know exactly what Cheryl would do to ensure that MS patients in the Greater Delaware Valley are not denied access to medical marijuana information. SHE would show up at one of the 14 upcoming "Walk MS" fundraising events being sponsored by the offending chapter and hand out medical marijuana information to participants directly...the same information that was censored at the March 23rd fundraiser. The locations and dates of those walks can be found here:

Cheryl began handing out information in New Jersey about cannabis therapeutics relative to MS at the 1994 Toms River MS walk, and continued the tradition at various Jersey Shore locations over the next nine years. Her last time out in public was at the Ortley Beach walk in April of 2003, six weeks before she died.

"Cheryl's last Walk MS event, at Ortley Beach NJ, April 2003" 

She showed up at these events in response to the National MS Society's deliberate and purposeful underestimation of the potential benefits of cannabis for MS patients in the '90s. They would say that they could not recommend cannabis use for MS patients until there were more studies done, while refusing to do the research that they insisted was necessary to get accurate information. They preferred to be ignorant by design.

And now? Using research performed by organizations other of their own, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's National Clinical Advisory Board concluded in its 2008 "Treatment Recommendations for Physicians" that "it is clear that cannabinoids have potential both for the management of MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity, as well as for neuroprotection." They then go on to estimate that 15% of MS patients already use cannabis for symptomatic relief. However, the real bombshell was their observation that "an unexpected result of basic research, as well as some evidence from clinical trials, led to the discovery that cannabinoids may also reduce neuronal damage." Reduce neuronal damage? They continue on, saying that a reduction in neuronal damage could result in "possibly limiting disease progression" and that marijuana could be used "perhaps as an add-on to other treatments," concluding that "in some ways this is even more exciting than its effects on symptoms such as pain and spasticity."

Really? Let me be clear why that is so exciting. In Cheryl's case, limiting disease progression means that she might have been with me longer and she would have suffered less. This information was prevented from being handed out to the 250 people attending the March 23rd fundraiser.

The success and scope of my response to the censorship of medical marijuana information at the MS Society's Greater Delaware Valley chapter fundraiser is dependent on the amount of help I have. I can't cover all 7 walks happening on April 21st, and I can't cover all 6 walks being held on May 5th. However I will enjoy the May 4th event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and will be able to attend one walk on each of the other two days that they are being held. I currently have two potential offers of help, meaning that in a best case scenario we could cover as many as half of the 14 scheduled MS Walks in the Delaware Valley.

Anyone wanting to help make it a clean sweep and deliver a message that will be heard loud and clear, you can get in touch with me at I will be able to make your participation as easy as possible. I can guarantee you, virtually everyone you hand a flyer to will thank you, especially those who are walking for an MS patient who is one of the 15% not waiting for the blessing of the Multiple Sclerosis Society before reaping the benefits of medical marijuana.

Jim Miller, President

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

CMMNJ April 9, 2013 Meeting Agenda & March Minutes

Monthly Public Meeting Agenda, Lawrence Township Library, Room #2
Tuesday, April 9, 2013; 7:00 PM -- 9:00 PM

7:00 PM:  Call meeting to order.   Approve March 2013 minutes.  Discuss:

CMMNJ’s Press Conference 3/21/13 in State House Annex very successful.  Media coverage throughout the state re: NJ’s Medicinal Marijuana Program.  DOH replies to advocates’ concerns.   CMMNJ’s next move?

The lawsuit against DOH for failure to implement the MMP is progressing; oral arguments expected in May.

Recent events: NORML Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, 3/16/13, U. of PA, Phila.—very successful.  MS Beef ‘n Beer, 3/23/13; CMMNJ was denied access to this event at the gate!

Upcoming Events: "Medical Marijuana Update: New Jersey's program, the law and the science," NJ Chapter of the Nat’l. Case Management Society, Woodbridge Hilton, 4/17/13, 6 pm (2 CEU’s will be awarded). “The Science of Marijuana” Ramapo College, 4/4/13 at 1 pm.  SSDP demonstration on 4/20/13 at Rowan U.

Joe Brown began work updating the CMMNJ web site on 3/14/13.

A765:  Authorized use of medical marijuana is equal to use of any other prescribed medication.

Treasury report: Current finances: Checking account: $4053; PayPal account: $3786.
Form 990-N e-filed with the IRS.  State of NJ Business filing done.

CMMNJ Billboard campaign on Facebook:

CMMNJ meetings are the second Tues. of each month, 7 - 9 PM at the Lawrence Twp. Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, 08648. (Meeting at the library does not imply endorsement of our issue.)

More info:  Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc., 219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618   (609) 394-2137 

Facebook: Friends of CMMNJ:

CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is a non-profit educational organization.

Monthly Public Meeting Minutes
Lawrence Township Library, Tuesday, March 12, 2013; 7:00 PM -- 9:00 PM

10th Anniversary Meeting called to order at 7 pm.   January 2013 minutes were approved.

NJ’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP): Only Greenleaf ATC in Montclair, NJ is selling marijuana to registered patients who report 2 to 7 months wait for an appt. after receiving DOH ID card.  CMMNJ Press Conference is scheduled for 3/21/13 at noon in State House Annex.

Lymphoma patient Matt B. says he got his ID card in Oct. and finished chemo by Jan. with no medical marijuana.

The lawsuit against DOH for failure to implement the MMP—oral arguments expected in May.
Compassionate Care lawsuit against Camden Zoning Board--briefs to be filed in May and June.

More Upcoming Events: NORML Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, 3/16/13, U. of PA, Phila.; MS Beef ‘n Beer, 3/23/13; Phila.; "Medical Marijuana Update: New Jersey's program, the law and the science," NJ Chapter of the Nat’l. Case Management Society, Woodbridge Hilton, 4/17/13, 6 pm (2 CEU’s will be awarded). SSDP demonstration on 4/20/13 at Rowan U.

Recent events: CMMNJ’s 10th anniversary party/pot luck dinner was held at Peter Rosenfeld’s house on March 9, 2013.  Thanks to all who came and helped us celebrate and thanks to the CMMNJ Board for the beautiful plaque they gave me for my decade with CMMNJ.  CMMNJ Board conference call held on 2/12/13.  Americans for Safe Access “National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference” Feb. 22 – 25, 2013; Washington, D.C.

A765:  Authorized use of medical marijuana is equal to use of any other prescribed medication.

Treasury report: Current finances: Checking account: $3625; PayPal account: $3665.

CMMNJ meetings are the second Tues. of each month, 7 - 9 PM at the Lawrence Twp. Library More info:  Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc., 219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618   (609) 394-2137
Facebook: Friends of CMMNJ:

CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is a non-profit educational organization.

Recent Media Coverage and Blogs:

 “New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program Update”
New Jersey Nurse, April 2013, Vol. 43 No. 2, Page 13:

Address Medical Marijuana Program’s Shortcomings

Opinion: Pot luck - Medicinal marijuana program plagued by needless delays

Backers of Medical Marijuana Law in NJ Say Administration Still Foot-Dragging

State aide says 5 of 6 N.J. pot dispensaries have "secured locations"

Two-third of medical marijuana patients face a longer wait to buy pot

State House Press Conference

Patients need Christie to be a 'compassionate conservative' on medical marijuana

Slow medical pot rollout lacks compassion

Vanessa Waltz, Cancer Survivor, Talks about Governor Christie's Failure

Health Care Professionals and Patients Call for Governor Christie to Obey the Law

A Physician Talks about his Frustration with Governor Christie's Stonewalling on Medical Marijuana

The Wait For Medical Pot Too Much For Some [AUDIO]

Medical Marijuana Patients, Advocates Are Fed Up

Medical-Marijuana Supporters See Hurdles Mount for Patients

Patient advocates impatient for progress on N.J. medical marijuana centers

Christie obstructing medical marijuana effort

Gov. Christie: 'No crisis' because only one medical pot shop open

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Bill Advances

Editorial: Oversight or obstruction? N.J. sends mixed messages to state's lone medical marijuana center

Christie obstructing medical marijuana effort

Still waiting for the compassion in NJ marijuana law

Medical Marijuana Supporters See Hurdles Mount for Patients

Medical pot delays only causing pain pain

Medical marijuana elusive for those in need in S. Jersey

The Science of Marijuana

North Jersey patients will be the focus of Montclair medical marijuana dispensary, owner says


Every connection counts: Jim & Cheryl Miller

MS Society Refuses Medical Marijuana Information

Multiple Sclerosis, Medical Marijuana and Me

New Jersey: Urge Your Representative to Co-Sponsor Industrial Hemp Legislation

‘NJ Weedman’ gets nine months for violating probation

Senator Daylin Leach Introduces Marijuana Legalization in PA (2013)

Medical Marijuana Billboard in Trenton

Rhode Island Marijuana Decriminalization Law Going Into Effect

Maryland Medical Marijuana Gains Momentum

Cannabinoids May Help Cure Skin Diseases

Rallying for Medical Marijuana Use

Medical Marijuana Rally Raises Awareness For PTSD Use [AUDIO]

NY Times: Shuffleboard? Oh, Maybe Let’s Get High Instead


Philly420: Cannabis for St. Patrick's in Philly

TRENTON - The state Health Department on Thursday issued the following statement following criticisms from medical marijuana advocates about what they claim is the slow pace of the program's implementation. The department says the implementation of other alternative treatment centers (ATCs) is in the works.

Here is the statement from Health Department's communications manager Daniel Emmer:

"Gov. Christie has taken a responsible approach to administering medical marijuana for qualified New Jersey residents. Following the opening of the first medical marijuana dispensary, the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget proposal doubles funding for the program with an increase of $823,000 for a total of $1.6 million.

"Just this week, the Department informed Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Twp. that it has approved the participation of several key board members and as well as its financial structure. The next step is for them to tell the program when they are ready for an inspection of their facility in order to get a permit to grow. (see attached letter)

"A third ATC—Compassionate Care Center of America in Woodbridge is very far along in the process. An examination of its principals and finances is ongoing.

"Two other ATCs have secured locations and examinations of their key board members are ongoing

"With the exception of Greenleaf, all ATCs have had a difficult time securing host communities. Greenleaf Compassion Center began serving patients in early December and the Department continues to work with them to increase patient access.

"To address physician education on the medicinal marijuana, the Medicinal Marijuana program has partnered with the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, the New Jersey Medical Society and the Drug Policy Alliance to provide informational webinars and an electronic library of scholarly articles and research materials.

"The (Health) Department is committed to ensuring ATCs are operated by responsible individuals who embrace our goals of timely safe and responsible access by patients."