New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Law May Be Delayed


Photo: ImageShack

​The administration of Governor Chris Christie is trying to delay the July implementation of New Jersey’s new law legalizing the use of marijuana for severely ill patients.

The measure, already called the most restrictive in the nation, was passed by the New Jersey Legislature in January and scheduled to take effect six months later, reports Mary Jo Patterson of the NJ Spotlight. Regulations were to be in place by October, when six state-licensed dispensaries would start selling cannabis to qualified patients.
But on May 21, senior staff in the Governor’s office suggested that seriously ill patients just be, well, “patient,” according to the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Nicolas Scutari, and wait for six more months before they can legally use the medicine that helps them the most.

Photo: NY Post
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie wants to make seriously ill New Jersey patients wait another six months for the only medicine that works.

​”There are logistics involved in getting this done right,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, not bothering to mention that the administration has known for months that such a change was coming, and in fact the Legislature had considered the measure for years before finally passing it.
Sen. Scutari said he asked for more information from Gov. Christie’s administration, but was not inclined to grant the full delay. Changing the timetable would require legislators to pass another bill.
“I said, ‘Send me a memo on what your issues are, and I’ll consider it, but I’m not going to give you that much time.’ It’s been in effect since January,” Scutari said.
Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the N.J. Department of Health and Services, said that formulating a business model for the sale of medical marijuana was a “highly complex task” that has taken the department into “pioneering territory.” She said the agency has a Q&A on the basics of the subject.

Photo: The Star-Ledger
N.J. State Sen. Nicolas Scutari says he isn’t inclined to give Gov. Christie six more months to implement the medical marijuana law

​There had been no decision as of April on how, or where, New Jersey will get its first marijuana seeds or rootstock, according to Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Beach), a  cosponsor of the bill who met with health officials last month, when they were still in the “fact-finding phase.”
“Do we say to dispensaries, ‘Get it where you can?'” asked Gusciora. “Would the federal government, which has a federal farm for marijuana, mail it to us? Would state troopers have to escort it? We’re grappling with this.”
It’s not as if the new law came as a surprise, or out of nowhere.
New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Law passed after years of lobbying by patient advocacy groups and others who pointed out that the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine had recognized marijuana was beneficial in treating pain and other symptoms associated with debilitating medical conditions.
Former Gov. Jon Corzine signed the medical marijuana bill into law on his last day in office.
New Jersey was the 14th state in
the country, and one of the few on the East Coast, to legalize medical marijuana. The new law will allow people with cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to buy the herb at licensed “alternative treatment centers.”
Patients are unfortunately prohibited from growing their own marijuana.
More than 5,000 New Jersey residents are expected to apply, according to patient advocates.
New Jersey’s law establishes strict controls under which patients would be entitled to a medical marijuana card giving them the right to buy cannabis, and dispensary operators would be authorized to grow or sell the herb.
Implementation of the law requires that the Health Department formulate many rules, from how to qualify patients to how to price the marijuana. The agency must also approve each strain to be sold, because it is responsible for guaranteeing quality and safety of the medicine.
State-approved patients will be allowed to buy only two ounces a month, which many advocates say is an absurdly small amount, especially given the extremely serious nature of the medical conditions necessary to qualify under New Jersey’s law.
Meanwhile, as the state susses out the rules, interest is increasing from potential growers and sellers in New Jersey, according to Scutari.
“It’s all across the board, from celebrities to farmers to people just interested in new business opportunities,” he said. “There are dozens and dozens who call me. I seem to be the only one creating business here in New Jersey.”