Trenton, NJ— On Monday, November 8th, the legislature will hold hearings to repeal specific provisions of the draft regulations for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services released draft regulations to implement the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in early October. The draft regulations have been greeted with a chorus of criticism from patients, families and advocates for being too restrictive and possibly making the program unworkable.
Hearings will be held in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee at 1PM on Monday in Committee Room 1 on the first floor of the State House Annex. At 2PM, the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee will hold hearings in Committee Room 13 on the fourth floor of the State House Annex.
Advocates, patients and families decry the unnecessary limits placed on the proposed medical marijuana program and the delay that might result from the increasingly contentious process.
“We believe the draft regulations are far too restrictive and burdensome and violate the legislative intent of the law,” says Roseanne Scotti, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey which spearheaded the effort to pass the legislation. “There are restrictions in these regulations that go beyond anything in the original law and beyond anything required in any other state which has a medical marijuana law.”
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), the prime sponsors of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, have introduced resolutions SCR130 and ACR151 declaring that the draft regulations are inconsistent with the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and violate the legislative intent of the Act.
Patients and families, who supported the original legislation and testified before the legislature when the original bill passed, worry that the problems with the regulations will make the program unworkable and further delay the implementation of the program.
“These proposed regulations go far beyond the already strict limits spelled out in the legislation,” says Don McGrath, whose son Sean who died from a rare form of cancer several years ago and used medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms of his disease. “We already had the strictest law in the country. I don’t see how the program will be workable with these restrictions.”
“We would appreciate it if they acted quickly on this because every day that goes by we are suffering without our medicine,” says Diane Rivera Riportella, who suffers from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. “People like myself with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is taking my life away quickly, we need to have access to medical marijuana now. Without the program being in effect, medical marijuana is difficult and dangerous to get. If it was one of their own family members, a parent or a child, would they take so long to create the regulations?”
The resolutions address four specific provisions in the regulations:
· The requirement all qualifying medical conditions for which a patient may get medical marijuana be resistant to conventional medical therapy. In the original legislation only certain medical conditions were required to meet this threshold.
· The limit of two Alternative Treatment Centers that will grow medical marijuana and four that will dispense marijuana. The original bill called for at least two Alternative Treatment Centers in the north, central and southern parts of the state.
· The draft regulations’ arbitrary limit on the permissible levels of THC the medical marijuana may contain. There was no such restriction in the original bill.
· The two year waiting period mandated by the regulations before patients can petition to have new conditions added to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be accessed. No such waiting period was included in the original legislation.
The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act is supported by a coalition of organizations including the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Faith is Our Pathway and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.