Following Sen. Loretta Weinberg’s comprehensive public hearing in January on the problems with the Compassionate Medical Marijuana Law, it is now time for action. Governor Christie has not followed the intent of the law. The legislature should vote to rescind the regulations and have them rewritten.
This has been one messed up process. The Health Department in December cancelled a public hearing on the regulations when Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) and Governor Christie, without the support of sponsoring Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), announced a supposed compromise. Later the Health Department on its website promulgated limited revised proposed regulations, based loosely on the compromise, but simultaneously moved ahead with its Request for Proposal before the revisions were published in the register. Many groups did not apply because they saw too many counterproductive regulations and were unclear what the final regs would be. more below…
Even while the the legislature was considering rescinding the regulations the Health Department moved ahead with the few applications it received and proceeded to grant awards to six groups. These instantly created groups are not known to medical and HIV non-profit leaders I contacted. The Star Ledger and MyCentralNJ.com have raised questions about their ties to the Christie administration. The Associated Press is also investigating. The Health Department has not released the names of the reviewers nor the scores of the applicants.
New Jerseyans are aware of contracts awarded on a political basis, particularly, on large projects such as Easy-Pass, DMV inspection, and prisons, however, in this case the venture is not as large but it does involve the medical well-being of patients. Under normal circumstances the Health Department would have received more input, issued reasonable regulations, and implemented an impartial grant process. Instead the governor on numerous occasions has politicized the matter with his opinions and actions and has reduced the process to a charade. Health Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh who created and supported the restrictive regulations is expected to announce her resignation today.
The governor and the commissioner did not followed the intent of the legislature, sound public health policy, the will of clients, nor the interests of doctors and potential grantees. The legislature should now override implementation of the program and order a rewriting of the regulations.