New Jersey doctors began enrolling some of the state’s sickest patients in their states new medical marijuana program yesterday. To comply with the state’s strict medical marijuana law, doctors found that before they can recommend medical marijuana for a patient, they must agree to tell the patients there’s a “lack of scientific consensus” the drug works and that it could even hurt them. Physicians must sign off on a statement attesting to their patients’ conditions and the failure of conventional medicine to help alleviate their suffering. One extra burden New Jersey physicians have to be compliant with the program is the requirement to provide, “education for the patient on the lack of scientific consensus for the use of medical marijuana, its sedative properties, and the risk of addiction.”
State health spokeswoman Donna Leusner described the statement as “reasonable,” saying, “marijuana, like other drugs that affect the central nervous system, has the potential to cause a patient to become addicted.” Ken Wolski, a nurse and executive director of the advocacy group Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, called the requirement “a blatantly political statement” that further proves Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is trying to weaken the program before it even starts. He says the required statement “shows open hostility to the use of marijuana as medicine,” Another troubling situation for doctors that decide to recommend cannabis for their patients is an online registry form requires doctors to attest they have completed education in “addiction medicine and pain management” within the past two years. Wolski contends that that isn’t in the law.
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This is just the latest controversy with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. The law’s authors say they are so disappointed in the state Health and Senior Services Department’s restrictive approach to the rules that they have threatened to repeal them if the Christie administration won’t compromise. Even though patients began the process of accessing medical marijuana as a treatment, they will not be able to buy any until July of next year. Starting yesterday, physicians could visit the Health Department’s website and enter their name, medical license number and the Drug Enforcement Administration number that permits them to write prescriptions. After their information is confirmed, the doctors can enroll patients by name and medical condition and give those patients a code number to apply for an identification card. As of yesterday, 17 physicians had registered online.