Friday, March 6, 2015

Maryanne Boniello's Legislative Testimony, 3/2/15

Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee
Committee Room 14, 4th Floor
State House Annex
Trenton, NJ 08625

Re:  NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act

I would like to thank the Committee for this opportunity to express my views on the NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

I have been a NJ Medical Marijuana patient since May of 2014. I have Stage 4 advanced metastatic thyroid cancer. I have also had breast cancer. In May of 2013, with my 3rd cancer operation in 7 month’s time to remove my remaining sternum pending, I made the decision to apply and got approval for Social Security Disability benefits. I had been a self-employed freelance Certified Court Reporter for 31 years. I was out of work since October 2012, when I had an operation to remove the upper part of my sternum for thyroid cancer. I will not elaborate on my medical treatment here other than to say it has been extensive and debilitating at times. The decision to apply for SSD benefits reduced my income by more than half.

When I decided to apply for my Medical Marijuana card, I was glad to see the State offer reduced fees for low-income and disabled patients. This does not apply to the dispensaries or the physicians on the registry who can charge whatever they like. This puts an undue burden on those that are struggling on fixed incomes and disability benefits, on top of having severe medical conditions. Unfortunately, the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act is anything but compassionate. It is hurting the very patients who need it the most. I do not believe this was the intent of the original legislation.

NJ patients are held hostage to the ATCs because we are not allowed to grow our own plants, although that was allowed in the original legislation. The ATCs have no competition or reason to have fair pricing. I would like to see a fee schedule imposed on the ATCs and physicians for patients who are on SSD and low-income patients similar to what the State offers for the MM program. This would take a huge financial burden off patients who are already dealing with a great amount of pain, stress, suffering and anxiety due to their illnesses and do not need the extra worries of whether they can afford their medicine. Patients should also be allowed to grow a certain number of plants for their own use, as was originally intended.

I also feel medical marijuana patients should not be taxed on their medicine. I do not pay taxes on my pharmaceutical medicines. This compounds the financial burden of the high-priced product and the extra tax. Are our legislators really okay with taxing the sick and suffering medical marijuana patients?  Not compassionate at all.

Physician Registry:

I do not understand why there is a physician registry. All licensed physicians in the State of New Jersey should have the opportunity to prescribe medical marijuana as they do prescription drugs. I should not be prevented from using my primary care physician who I have been going to for more than 15 years because she is not on the registry. I also should not be precluded from using my cancer doctors, all of whom are in New York City, just because there is no provision for out-of-state doctors to certify patients.

I had a lengthy discussion with my PCP about this program. She is very interested in it. When I asked her if she would consider joining the registry, she said she didn’t have a problem doing that, but she would want to know more about dosing and interaction of other drugs before she felt comfortable as a physician to prescribe medical marijuana. The required course for the registry is Addiction Medicine & Pain Management. I am not a doctor, but even I can figure out that courses on medical marijuana, strains, dosing, interactions with other drugs would be more effective for the physicians to gain the knowledge they need for their patients. I am on my own to figure out dosing and interactions. This is not right.

Recently, I looked into changing physicians for the program to one that accepted my insurance. I first called the DOH to ask the procedure for that and it was a simple one - the new doctor had to sign-on to the online website and a few clicks and information changes and it was done. I called 3 local doctors on the registry:

Dr. #1 wanted to charge me $150 administrative fee not refundable through my insurance and then would take my insurance for visits.

Dr. #2 wanted to charge a $300 consultation fee not billable to my insurance.

Dr. #3 wanted to charge $275 and the manager I spoke with said I had to be completely re-certified again with all the paperwork I submitted in May. This was totally inaccurate as I had gotten specific instructions from the DOH on how to transfer a patient.

There needs to be oversight and fee schedules for the physicians also.


These need to be allowed and made available for all patients, not just children. I find it very offensive and discriminatory that the way I choose to medicate is being directed by politicians. Whether  one believes that cannabis cures cancer, helps with seizures and other diseases or not, patients should have full access to the various forms of medical marijuana which have different uses. I should not have to make my own cannabis oil. There is no valid reason why whole plant-based cannabis oil is not available in NJ. I fight every day for my life and am committed to doing everything within my means to fight cancer. Why am I being denied a possible treatment option? How many of you can say that given the same situation I am in, you would not want ALL available options of treatment for yourself or a loved one?

I truly hope that these changes will be implemented very soon. As with anything new, there’s tweaking to be done with the program. There are a lot of people out here that have severe, life-threatening conditions who are depending on this program. We don’t have the time to wait.  

Maryanne Boniello
Nutley, NJ 07110


  1. I liked the last paragraph of this article which is about medical marijuana edibles, oils and concentrates.

  2. Thank you, Maryanne, for speaking out about the inconsistencies and limitations of the NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Your feedback will hopefully improve the availability, cost and dosing standards for the NJ residents who benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

    Cindy G.