N.J. Apologizes For Privacy Breach In Medical Marijuana Email


State of New Jersey Department of Health

New Jersey’s Health Department has apologized after an email from the department included the visible email addresses of all recipients — revealing the email addresses of medical marijuana patient in the state. The department claimed it was taking steps to prevent the error from happening again.

Toke of the Town originally broke the story on Tuesday after registered New Jersey medical marijuana patient Susan Sturner let us know about the email which violated the privacy of patients.

Jersey City Independent
Victor Pinho, New Jersey Coalition for Medical Marijuana: “I think it’s apparent to everybody including the Department of Health that this is a huge privacy issue”

“I think it’s apparent to everybody including the Department of Health that this is a huge privacy issue,” Victor Pinho of the New Jersey Coalition for Medical Marijuana told Levon Putney of WCBS.
The state emailed more than 480 registered medical marijuana patients to tell them not to bother the state by calling, but instead to call the dispensary in Montclair to make an appointment to buy cannabis. But the message didn’t hide the email addresses of recipients by using the “bcc” field; instead, all recipients were visible to everyone who got the email.
“I felt the email pretty much said ‘be quiet and be grateful,’ ” Lisa Segal of Wenonah said.
“This breakdown in privacy puts the patient at risk and puts the program at risk and these sorts of things cannot, cannot be happening in the state of New Jersey,” Pinho said.
Segal said she counted the email addresses of 481 medical marijuana patients in the message. “I felt that was an unbelievable breach of privacy,” she said.
Patients have been waiting almost three years after outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine signed the medical marijuana bill into law in 2010. As of Tuesday, fewer than 100 patients had gotten medicinal cannabis through an appointment at Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair.
Officials had registered, on the day the dispensary opened, 338 patients who can receive medical marijuana. Another 61 applications are under review. Patients must meet a list of requirements, including being diagnosed with one of 12 specific debilitating illnesses.
Multiple sclerosis, HIV, terminal cancer, and glaucoma are among the qualifying conditions.
“The Medicinal marijuana Program inadvertently sent an insensitive message that mistakenly disclosed patient email addresses to other participants in the program,” the Department of Health said in an official statement. “The Department sincerely apologizes for the error and has taken immediate steps to ensure this does not happen again.”
Sturner Finally Gets Dispensary Appointment
In a bit of happy news, patient Susan Sturner, who’d been struggling to get an appointment with Greenleaf Compassion Center, finally got an appointment for Thursday, December 20.
“It is last minute but I am ecstatic,” Sturner told Toke of the Town. “I am eager and willing to speak with the press before and after my appointment and will not shy away from photographers.
“The New York Times reported that patients ‘skulked in like criminals’ and I want you to know that I will be walking in with my head held proudly,” Sturner told us.
“Even though I got my call today, hundreds of people are still waiting while the state plods this program along,” she said. “I, also, am a person with what is called an invisible disability, in other words, to looka t me you would not know that I am disabled.
“I appreciate the attention the indiscreet email from the State of NJ to MMJ patients got from the press, along with their paltry apology.”