Drug Law

New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana ‘Compromise’ Still Falls Short

| by Marijuana Policy Project

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has spent much of the last year trying to weaken the medical marijuana law signed by his predecessor, announced new regulations Friday that made several concessions to patient advocates, but in many respects remain unjustly prohibitive. In either case, the latest proposal may finally allow for the first medical marijuana sales in New Jersey to take place as soon as this summer.

Under the new rules:

  • New Jersey will become home to six legal growing sites and six distribution sites. (Christie originally wanted only two growers and four distributors.)
  • Patients suffering from three “nonfatal” conditions – seizures, glaucoma, and intractable muscle spasms – will be required to exhaust all other treatment options before their doctor can recommend marijuana. (Christie originally wanted this cruel mandate to apply to all qualifying patients.)
  • New Jersey will become the first medical marijuana state in the country to place an arbitrary cap (10 percent) on the level of THC allowed in all marijuana sold. (This is an unreasonable restriction for several reasons: THC is virtually nontoxic at any concentration, some patients may have better results with higher potency marijuana, and the pill Marinol, which is legal in all 50 states and approved by the FDA, is comprised of 100 percent THC.)
  • Patients will still not be allowed to grow their own medicine. (Washington, D.C. is the only other medical marijuana jurisdiction with such a restriction.)
  • The sales of marijuana-laced edibles will be prohibited, but items such as lozenges and skin ointments will be permitted.
  • Only six marijuana plant strains will be allowed to be sold, further limiting the options for patients who might respond better to one specific strain over another.

From The New York Times:

Advocates of medical marijuana complained on Friday that despite the compromise, the regulations continued to discourage access to the drug: by forbidding home cultivation or delivery, and by requiring doctors to be registered and to take a training course before they could certify patients for treatment.

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Ken Wolski, a registered nurse and chief executive officer of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, complained that doctors also had to “attest that they’ve provided education for the patients on the lack of scientific consensus for the use of medical marijuana.”

“What kind of statement is that?” Mr. Wolski said. “The act found legitimate uses for marijuana therapy in a number of specified conditions.”

Christie says the restrictions are designed to prevent abuse, but he fails to realize that constructing too many barriers to legal access could ultimately force many patients to resort to the illicit market in search of reliable pain relief. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the state Senate still has options for rejecting Christie’s proposed amendments, but it’s not yet clear what action, if any, senators and patient advocates will take.