Medical Marijuana Mess

ATCs are Alternative Treatment Centers. Promoted by Rosi Efthim

In her recent weekend NJN interview Commissioner Dr. Alaigh shed little light or enthusiasm on the Medical Marijuana program: she expressed her belief that the Governor was a strong proponent of health matters (yet to be demonstrated,) and her realization as a doctor that the program may be beneficial (damning with faint praise.)  She also showed concern that ATC’s not be widely available and that because the law was complex it would take considerable more time to establish policies and procedures. They were words of a cautious administrator with no sense of urgency or advocacy for this issue.

What might have been a highly beneficial, straightforward law has devolved into a mess. Christie-led Republican legislators tinkered with it during the lameduck session, and six months later the program remains mired in uncertainties and delays. The amendment passed this week does only one thing: it delays the effective date of enactment by 90 days until October 1. The original law still provides 90 additional days, in effect until Jan 1, 2011, for finalizing regulations. Significant uncertainties remain to be resolved: who will produce the cannabis and who will sell it.

There have been reports that the State would like Rutgers to produce the cannabis and hospitals to sell it. That is not what the law says. The law requires alternative treatment centers (ATC’s) to be the ones both selling and producing the marijuana.  It is unlikely that Rutgers would want to become a seller and it is unclear whether it even wants to produce it. Also by law the first six ATC’s have to be non-profits, but some hospitals are for-profit and even-nonprofit ones are unlikely to be enthusiastic about selling cannabis. The ideal non-profit ATC’s would initially be community-based agencies located mostly in urban areas, but security and high costs make marijuana cultivation there impractical.

The solution is for an amendment to the law which allows the Health Department to select several producers who are not required to become ATC’s, and Rutgers could certainly be one of them. With several producers, as opposed to a monopoly, there is more likelihood of a steady, dependable source of high quality cannabis at a reasonable price. By law the first six approved ACT’s would still have to be non-profits, but they would not be required to cultivate it.

There needs to be the amendment proposed above, some serious butt-kicking, and possibly a lawsuit for this critical service to see the light of day.  

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