Trenton, NJ— Today, the New Jersey State Senate passed a resolution invalidating the Christie Administration’s regulations for implementing the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The Department of Health and Senior Services now has thirty days to rewrite the regulations to make them comport with the original legislation. The New Jersey State Assembly passed the resolution on November 22nd.
The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law on January 11th by outgoing Governor Jon Corzine. The Christie Administration released its draft regulations in October, but legislative sponsors, patients and advocates have criticized the regulations for conflicting with the original law and being so restrictive that they make the program unworkable. In light of the vote, patients and advocates urge the Christie Administration to move quickly to make changes to the regulations and get the program up and running.
“We urge the Department to move swiftly to change the problematic sections of the regulations,” said Roseanne Scotti, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, which spearheaded the effort to pass the legislation. “We are approaching the one year anniversary of the bill becoming law and patients are still suffering and still no closer to having safe and legal access to their medicine.”
“I’m tired of fighting for what I deserve,” said Diane Riportella, who suffers from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). “I don’t have much time left and want to see this program started before I’m no longer here.”
The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed after five years of intense advocacy by patients, families and a coalition of medical and professional organization. The Act will allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The bill will also allow for the licensing of Alternative Treatment Centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program will be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. The Act is the most restrictive medical marijuana law in the nation.
The Senate resolution addresses 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.