Will NJ medical pot law go up in smoke?
TRENTON -- The terminally ill's lack of access to medical marijuana is one of the worries of a state senator who is trying to force Gov. Chris Christie's administration to change proposed regulations of the drug.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Middlesex, said the Republican governor's proposed rules have several flaws, including barring dispensaries from making home deliveries, even for terminally ill patients -- those defined in the regulations as having less than 12 months to live.
""Terminally ill patients are penalized,'' Scutari said.
Also, the levels of the drugs active ingredient are capped ""arbitrarily'' and a rule requiring doctors who register with the program to complete training in addiction medicine is ""unnecessary,'' Scutari said.
Scutari has scheduled a hearing Thursday with the Democrat-controlled Senate health committee that could lead to a rewrite of Christie’s rules.
Hanging in the balance is the delivery of medical marijuana to those who suffer from chronic or terminal illnesses, which the law, signed in January, is supposed to provide.
Some key Democrats said they fear the rewrite process could significantly delay the launch of the program, which would deny people who could use medical marijuana much-needed relief.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, says Christie has already made adequate changes, with the governor upping the number of facilities to grow and distribute the marijuana to six, as the law calls for. The changes would make it easier for patients to get access to doctor-prescribed medical marijuana.
Gusciora said the amendments ""encompass parts of the compromise I had reached with the governor. They're not perfect but it's a starting point. I believe half a loaf is better than no loaf.''
""Scutari has the right to do what he's doing, but to start the regulations again from scratch will just delay seeing the program get started, '' Gusciora added.
But Scutari said this is likely the only time significant changes can be made, adding ""We only have one shot with this. We have to get it right.''
New Jersey got the ball rolling to become the 14th state offering medical marijuana when then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation in January 2010, one day before Christie took office.
The law is formally known as the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Scutari and Gusciora were leading advocates.
Christie has insisted on strict rules, saying he wants to avoid creating a ""de facto legalization of marijuana" in New Jersey.
Christie had said there are flaws with laws in some other jurisdictions, leading to situations where there is ""a head shop in every town and quack doctors writing prescriptions for people with headaches to get marijuana.''
Changes to Medical Marijuana Regulations
Some state lawmakers are proposing changes to medical marijuana regulations in Colorado. House bill 11-1043 was introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives in early January. The bill would make numerous changes to the current law, including changing residency requirements for dispensary owners, and protecting medical marijuana patients in the case that their medical records are released. Tom McMenamim with Levity Wellness says of the proposed changes, "a great deal of them are very good”. But he says over the past few months, additional proposals pertaining to surveillance are beginning to add up to a hefty price tag, "it would cost us many thousands of dollars for us to do it the way they want us to do it".
McMenamim agrees, regardless, in this ever-changing industry, the strong businesses will survive and the proposals will do the industry well in the eyes of the doubting public, “the struggle is to make this business legitimate, and, the more things that we can do so that people see this is not just a flash in the pan, it’s a business that’s going to be around, and more and more people are going to want to utilize this product". Richard Perkins with A Wellness Centers agrees, "there’s always going to be some adjustments, like any industry that’s this new, but for the most part I think everything’s going well pretty far, Its just going to take some time to polish some things out”. He says many of the proposed changes would be good for the industry, and like McMenamim, says, "I mean a lot of it legitimizes the industry and allows us to take it out of the back alley so to speak and put it more on the forefront of the community and let everyone know what its about and what we can do to offer what services we can offer to help them”.
Michigan medical marijuana news: regulations and raids
KALAMAZOO — Portage and Allegan County's Otsego Township this week joined the growing list of Michigan communities that have enacted six-month moratoriums on medical-marijuana dispensaries.
Many local boards are adopting moratoriums while they sort out what type of local regulations to enact.
In Marshall, the city council last week extended its six-month moratorium for another six months.
Meanwhile, in Oakland County, officers raided another medical marijuana dispensary this week, saying it was selling to non-patients.
And in Jackson, a woman was evicted from her federally subsidized apartment for using medical marijuana.
Colorados Bill Would Ease States Medical-Pot Law
Licenses to sell NJ medical marijuana cost $20K
Theories on the effectiveness of New Jersey's medical marijuana program remain in question as the state health department and Legislature continue to battle over its rules.
The health department has just released a revised set of rules for New Jersey's medical marijuana program. New Jersey's medical marijuana law was first enacted in January 2010.
The state Department of Health and Human Services also released a how-to guide for entrepreneurs who want to bid on the licensing rights to run the six alternative treatment centers selling marijuana. Licenses cost $20,000, but $18,000 would be refunded if the bidder loses.
The new rules reflect an agreement Gov. Chris Christie reached with the law's Assembly sponsor, Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), that allow for six dispensaries to operate, instead of the four the administration initially sought.
NorthJersey.com reports the latest version of the controversial program's rules comes a day after Sen. Nicholas Scutari announced there would be a Jan. 20 hearing to repeal rules the department announced in October that he and patients say make access to the drug all but impossible.
The Asbury Park Press reported the state Senate voted in December to force Gov. Chris Christie's administration to rewrite proposed rules putting the medical marijuana law into effect.
Two of the four concerns specified were addressed in a compromise by Christie and Gusciora. Those were the number and responsibilities for alternative treatment centers and the conditions for when a doctor can recommend a patient for medical marijuana.
The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act is already the most restrictive of all such laws in the nation, according to the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. The qualifying conditions are severely limited and include any patient with a diagnosis of less than 12 months to live. Some of the conditions are glaucoma, seizures (including epilepsy), and multiple sclerosis.
Scutari said he held out hope for a compromise. He wants the state to remove its proposed limit on the potency of the drug, and to drop the requirement that doctors must get addiction training and consent they will wean patients off the drug as soon as possible.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey also joined the contingent opposing the health department's proposed medical pot rules. The ACLU took issue with the state preventing dispensaries from advertising their products or sharing prices over the telephone.
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