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Editorial: Time To Exhale

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Using marijuana for medicinal purposes has been legal in New Jersey for more than a year. But the Christie administration's move to graft excessive regulations overtop the strong state law has stalled the drug's legal availability.

While we are extremely frustrated by the snail's pace and disagree with some of the new limitations, we can only welcome any move forward on this issue. Terminally ill New Jerseyans whose diseases wrack their bodies with pain have waited far too long for relief.

This week, the state Department of Health and Senior Services announced the roster of nonprofit agencies it has approved to grow and sell the drug. There will be six "alternative treatment centers" located throughout the state, including North Jersey outposts in Secaucus, run by Foundation Harmony of Cliffside Park, and in Montclair, run by Greenleaf Compassion Center.

Health Department officials said they expect the legal dispensaries to be up and running by this summer. We hope so. This department has been ready and willing to ignore settled law, including new requirements to post nutritional information in chain restaurants and limits on religious exemptions for required childhood vaccinations.

It's high time to end that losing streak and enact the medical marijuana program.

But in this case, it's not solely up to state health officials. The Legislature has balked at the Health Department's implementation rules, which lawmakers said are inconsistent with the intent of the law. The department is attempting to impose rules that would prevent home delivery of the drug and sharply limit its potency. Medical marijuana advocates almost uniformly oppose these onerous rules. While the department compromised with the bill's Assembly sponsor, its champions in the Senate haven't yet been brought on board.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the original sponsor of the legislation and an outspoken critic of the administration's handling of the dispensing process, said he is still seeking compromise with the governor on the issue. However, Scutari remains skeptical of the criteria used to select the treatment centers and wants to be sure the facilities were chosen under "a fair, open and competitive process."

Further, Scutari continues to be troubled by regulations regarding no home delivery and the limit to potency, the latter a requirement not listed in any of the other 13 states with medicinal medical marijuana programs. Regarding the home delivery prohibition, Scutari said it seemed "a penalty for the sickest people."

Ideally, we'd like to see a medical marijuana program implemented in a form much closer to the original intent of the law. Yet we would also like to see legislators and the governor move forward with all deliberate speed.

The process, even by New Jersey political standards, has been more painstaking than it should have been. It is time for the state to concern itself again with the people who need the benefits medical marijuana can provide. They are the reason the law was adopted in the first place.

USING marijuana for medicinal purposes has been legal in New Jersey for more than a year. But the Christie administration's move to graft excessive regulations overtop the strong state law has stalled the drug's legal availability.

While we are extremely frustrated by the snail's pace and disagree with some of the new limitations, we can only welcome any move forward on this issue. Terminally ill New Jerseyans whose diseases wrack their bodies with pain have waited far too long for relief.

This week, the state Department of Health and Senior Services announced the roster of nonprofit agencies it has approved to grow and sell the drug. There will be six "alternative treatment centers" located throughout the state, including North Jersey outposts in Secaucus, run by Foundation Harmony of Cliffside Park, and in Montclair, run by Greenleaf Compassion Center.

Health Department officials said they expect the legal dispensaries to be up and running by this summer. We hope so. This department has been ready and willing to ignore settled law, including new requirements to post nutritional information in chain restaurants and limits on religious exemptions for required childhood vaccinations.

It's high time to end that losing streak and enact the medical marijuana program.

But in this case, it's not solely up to state health officials. The Legislature has balked at the Health Department's implementation rules, which lawmakers said are inconsistent with the intent of the law. The department is attempting to impose rules that would prevent home delivery of the drug and sharply limit its potency. Medical marijuana advocates almost uniformly oppose these onerous rules. While the department compromised with the bill's Assembly sponsor, its champions in the Senate haven't yet been brought on board.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the original sponsor of the legislation and an outspoken critic of the administration's handling of the dispensing process, said he is still seeking compromise with the governor on the issue. However, Scutari remains skeptical of the criteria used to select the treatment centers and wants to be sure the facilities were chosen under "a fair, open and competitive process."

Further, Scutari continues to be troubled by regulations regarding no home delivery and the limit to potency, the latter a requirement not listed in any of the other 13 states with medicinal medical marijuana programs. Regarding the home delivery prohibition, Scutari said it seemed "a penalty for the sickest people."

Ideally, we'd like to see a medical marijuana program implemented in a form much closer to the original intent of the law. Yet we would also like to see legislators and the governor move forward with all deliberate speed.

The process, even by New Jersey political standards, has been more painstaking than it should have been. It is time for the state to concern itself again with the people who need the benefits medical marijuana can provide. They are the reason the law was adopted in the first place.


NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Record, The (Hackensack, NJ)
Copyright: 2011 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Contact: letterstotheeditor@northjersey.com
Website: NorthJersey.com
Details: MAP: Media Directory
 
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