Drug Law

New Jersey Struggles to Make Medical Marijuana a Reality

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The NJ Department of Health and Human Services revealed this week that they have 90 doctors currently registered in their still-being-implemented medical marijuana program. The New Jersey Medical Marijuana program is the first in the nation to require that doctors must complete special requirements to recommend the use of medical marijuana. They also require that those same doctors register with the state before they begin recommending cannabis as a medical therapy.

The doctor registration program was part of the strict and controversial special regulations that were proposed by New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie. The program was passed by law over 18 months ago. Patients, most of who are terminal set out by the tough standards to get a card in New Jersey, have been waiting but so far the complete set of regulations have yet to be officially finalized. With 18 months worth of delays to the program, the NJ Legislature took the rare move to pass a resolution stating that the regulations are working against the intent of the compassionate use law.

Doctors in the state criticized a registry that requires additional training in addictive medicine since there are no such requirements for prescribing other drugs. Under the NJ rules, patients must seek out one of these 90 doctors out of more than 30,000 practicing physicians in the state to begin the long process of entering the medical marijuana program. But, qualifying patients are having a hard time finding one of those 90 since the list is not public.

Since home cultivation is not allowed, the patient must also choose one out of the six Alternative Treatment Center sites where they would be allowed to obtain medical marijuana, and then they must wait for the approval of the Department of Health and Human Services which will send them an official ID card. Currently the number of patients registered in the New Jersey Medical Marijuana program passed in January of 2010 is zero. There is not one open dispensary in New Jersey, although there are some multi-million dollar facilities that have been approved as dispensaries. Many of the patients who fought long and hard with what little energy their disabilities and diseases have left them with have all but given up on the program. Those with MS, Cancer, HIV and other serious conditions have returned to the black market instead. End of Life caregivers and hospice personal have had to look the other way as families of dying patients have had to risk arrest for easing the pain of a loved one. You can find out more about the New Jersey medical marijuana program and the struggles to implement it chronicled on Chris Goldstein’s website, Freedomisgreen.com.