Medical Cannabis: “My Way Or The Highway”

“At this time, the Department is not reviewing proposals or receiving documents, nor meeting with potential vendors, advocacy groups, lobbyists or other interested parties. We believe this is the best way to assure an objective, science based strategy.” – email from NJ Department of Health June 14, 2010

This remarkable email assumes that only the Health Department (and the governor) can create an objective, science based strategy. In fact the department recognized its own limitations and jobbed out the task to an outside university group. Creation of a successful community program, however, requires input from the community. Indeed, by law the Health Department will still have to publish its proposed regulations and seek input before finalizing them.

keep reading below

It appears now that the administration after one 90-day extension has reached some decisions – for only two growers and four dispensaries – and is seeking yet another extension until July 1, 2011. So why did the department not seek input early in the process? Planning the medical cannabis program has been cloaked with secrecy and wrapped not in science but in politics. Our governor a few months ago, with his foot in his mouth, revealed the possibility of Rutgers University cultivating the cannabis and only hospitals distributing it, but most of this plan appears to have been abandoned. In comments on a weekend news show Health Commissioner Alaigh in March expressed concern about not re-creating a situation as in certain other states where in her view there are too many distributors. The implication seems to be that after delays it’s alright to make medical cannabis available, but let’s restrict growers and make it difficult for patients to access.  

It is a sad turn of events when a medical program lacks input from the community, strays from science, and becomes a political football. Today’s Star Ledger indicates that Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), sponsor of the bill, said “he was given some of the details as to how Gov. Chris Christie’s administration plans to make pot legally available, and is not happy about what he heard” – specifically the provisions for limited growers and dispensaries and yet another extension, which run contrary to what was passed in the law. “I don’t want them rewriting my law,” an angry Scutari said tonight. “That’s not right… It’s got to be fixed.”

The administration says it will shortly release guidelines outlining “the registration and application process for physicians, patients, growers and vendors” which probably will be posted on the Health Department’s website. Nonetheless, once again Chris Christie, former prosecutor,  pays scant attention to the law, and says “It’s my way, or the highway.”  Advocates for a sane policy – one based on science, the law, and community input – should support Senator Scutari and make their voices heard.

Medical Cannabis: “My Way Or The Highway”

“At this time, the Department is not reviewing proposals or receiving documents, nor meeting with potential vendors, advocacy groups, lobbyists or other interested parties. We believe this is the best way to assure an objective, science based strategy.” – email from NJ Department of Health June 14, 2010

This remarkably obtuse email assumes that only the Health Department (and the governor) can create an objective, science based strategy. In fact the department recognized its own limitations and jobbed out the task to an outside university group. Creation of a successful community program, however, requires input from the community. Indeed, by law the Health Department will still have to publish its proposed regulations and seek input before finalizing them.

It appears now that the administration after one 90-day extension has reached some decisions – for only two growers and four dispensaries – and is seeking yet another extension until July 1, 2011. So why did the department not seek input early in the process? Planning the medical cannabis program has been cloaked with secrecy and wrapped not in science but in politics. Our governor a few months ago, with his foot in his mouth, revealed the possibility of Rutgers University cultivating the cannabis and only hospitals distributing it, but most of this plan appears to have been abandoned. In comments on a weekend news show Health Commissioner Alaigh in March expressed concern about not re-creating a situation as in certain other states where in her view there are too many distributors. The implication seems to be that after delays it’s alright to make medical cannabis available, but let’s restrict growers and make it difficult for patients to access.  

It is a sad turn of events when a medical program lacks input from the community, strays from science, and becomes a political football. Today’s Star Ledger indicates that Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), sponsor of the bill, said “he was given some of the details as to how Gov. Chris Christie’s administration plans to make pot legally available, and is not happy about what he heard” – specifically the provisions for limited growers and dispensaries and yet another extension, which run contrary to what was passed in the law. “I don’t want them rewriting my law,” an angry Scutari said tonight. “That’s not right… It’s got to be fixed.”

The administration says it will shortly release guidelines outlining “the registration and application process for physicians, patients, growers and vendors”  which probably will be posted on the Health Department’s website. Nonetheless, once again Chris Christie, former prosecutor,  pays scant attention to the law, and says “It’s my way, or the highway.”  Advocates for a sane policy – one based on science, the law, and community input – should support Senator Scutari and make their voices heard.

Comment (1)

  1. Bill Orr (Post author)

    The nightmare portrayed by the 1936 exploitation movie Tell Your Children (aka Reefer Madness), which portrayed the horror that ensued when youths are lured into taking marijuana, is nothing in comparison with the nightmare being foisted on New Jerseyans by the Department of Health’s 97 pages of proposed regulations just posted on its website. This lengthy document proposes plans that serve as a disincentive for patients to enroll, promises a large increase in paperwork bureaucracy for all involved, and provides a crass opportunity for the Health Department to charge high fees to extremely ill patients.

    The actual regs begin on page 9 with the requirement of a fee of $200.00 per participant. Wow! Certain patients can qualify for a reduced fee but they have to provide specific documents. Under either category a substantial number of other documents must be submitted to to become registered. And we thought this was supposed to be the “Compassionate” Medical Marijuana Program. Not surprisingly there are many regulations that apply to physicians, dispensaries and cultivators.

    You can read the the Department’s brief press release on the proposed regs, or read and weep over the full proposed regs. Or better yet protest and submit comments to the department.  

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *