|Photo: Freedom Is Green|
|Sandy Fiaola, New Jersey multiple sclerosis patient, is still waiting for her medicine|
Ninety physicians are already registered in a program for medical marijuana in New Jersey, which is the first state in the nation to require that doctors complete special requirements and register with the state to recommend cannabis.
The scheme follows a set of regulations proposed by Governor Chris Christie’s administration, reports Chris Goldstein at Freedom Is Green. After 18 months of frustrating delays, the rules still haven’t been officially finalized. The Legislature even took the very unusual move of passing a resolution saying that the regulations are working against the intent of New Jersey’s compassionate use law.
Physicians around the state criticized the registry, which requires training in addictive medicines. There are no similar requirements for other drugs, testified former Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh before the New Jersey Senate Health Committee in March.
|Chris Goldstein of Freedom Is Green says that N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s approach has needlessly delayed safe access for patients|
This could go a long way towards explaining why out of more than 30,000 doctors who practice medicine in New Jersey, only 90 are participating in the medical marijuana program, severely and unfairly limiting access for patients who could benefit from cannabis.
Under the draconian New Jersey regulations, patients must have a doctor who is on the marijuana registry to even begin the process of entering the state’s medicinal cannabis program. The patient must also choose one of six Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) sites, which is the legal name for New Jersey’s state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.
Patients are not allowed to cultivate their own marijuana at home.
Once the application is approved by DHSS, the patient will be issued an ID card.
So far, that’s all strictly theoretical, because the number of registered medical marijuana patients in New Jersey is currently zero.
As for the dispensaries, although some multimillion-dollar facilities have been approved by the state, none are open. The ATCs are not even building their facilities after Gov. Christie and state Attorney General Paula Dow starting questioning the inherent (and Legislature-approved) conflicts with federal law, which of course have existed all along in other medical marijuana states without causing the sky to fall.
The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed in January 2010, a final act in the term of Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, who lost a second term to Republican Chris Christie in a close election.
Since gaining office, Gov. Christie has repeatedly delayed implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program, leaving patients in the lurch and without access to the medical therapy that they need.
Some potentially qualifying patients have struggled to find doctors on the marijuana registry — but the list is not public. Sadly, even more of the New Jersey patients say they’ve just given up on the program. These are people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV and other serious conditions and they don’t have time for Gov. Christie to equivocate endlessly when they could have only a few months to live — so they are forced to access black market marijuana instead.