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New Jersey’s Battle for Medical Marijuana

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New Jersey’s State Health Department has released a revised set of rules to govern New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. The latest rules were released just one day after the bills sponsor, Sen. Nicholas Scutari announced that there would be a January 20th hearing to repeal the rules that the department announced back in October. The rules, according to activists, were too strict to make the program workable. The set back has threatened the very existence of the long-fought for medical marijuana program.

The Department of Health and Human services for the state also made available a how-to guide for anyone who wants to bid on the licensing rights to run one or more of the now six alternative treatment centers that would dispense medical cannabis. The last set of rules only allowed four growing centers.  To put in your bid in New Jersey, you would need to pay the License cost which is $20,000, but if your bid is not accepted you will be able to get $18,000 refunded to you.

Sen. Scutari said that they state was finally taking some action because of the hearing he had called. But despite the acrimony between Sen. Scutari and the Gov. Christie administration, he is holding out hope for a compromise. He is still working to get the state to remove the proposed limit on potency and the requirement that doctors must get addiction training. He says as the rules stand now that there is another obstacle every step of the way.

He isn’t standing alone in his criticism of the program. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has also taken issue with some of the health department’s proposed medical marijuana rules. The ACLU doesn’t care for the state preventing dispensaries from advertising their products or sharing prices over the telephone. According to a letter that ACLU of New Jersey’s legal director Ed Barocas who wrote to the health department yesterday, “the ban on advertising is a severe limitation on the commercial speech rights of the dispensaries, and acts as a near complete ban on the constitutional rights of patients … to obtain such information and to thereby compare pricing,”

The new rules reflect an agreement that Gov. Chris Christie reached with the law’s Assembly sponsor, Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), that allow for the original six dispensaries to operate, instead of the four the administration was trying to limit. Gusciora said he hopes that the new regulations can be expanded upon, but said he believes that for the time being, the proposed regulations will allow patients to seek the necessary treatment and relief. That is if they can decide on how and when to implement the much anticipated program.

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New Jersey’s Battle for Medical Marijuana


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