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Lawmaker Who Sponsored Medical Marijuana Law To Challenge NJ's Strict New Rules


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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey senator who sponsored the state law giving chronically ill patients access to medical marijuana wants to force the state to rewrite what he says are overly restrictive rules that make the program unworkable.

Sen. Nick Scutari said Thursday the Health Department's draft regulations for growing, distributing and buying the drug set up too many roadblocks for people the law was designed to help.

"The regulations are making it impossible to implement the medical marijuana statute that was signed into law," said Scutari, a Democrat and municipal prosecutor.

Scutari said he'll introduce a resolution Monday challenging the proposed regulations. If it passes - a likelihood in the Democratic-controlled Legislature - the Health Department would get 30 days to withdraw the rules or rewrite them. The state Constitution gives the Legislature the power to invalidate rules that go beyond what lawmakers intended.

Scutari said the medical marijuana regulations go beyond what's specified in the law. For example, he said New Jersey's rules weaken the strength of the available marijuana to just 10 percent of the strength available in the pill form of the drug.

Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has said he would not have signed the law in its current form. He said he does not want to deny sick patients access to marijuana, but he has insisted that New Jersey's regulations be strict. He has said he does not want New Jersey to be like California, whose medical marijuana law is generally seen as lax.

New Jersey became the 14th state to allow medical marijuana.

The state's proposed regulations announced Oct. 6 could go into effect in January, with two growers and four clinics to distribute the drug chosen in February and the first legal marijuana available in the summer of 2011.

There will be a 60-day comment period during which changes could be made to the regulations before they're official.

Advocates say New Jersey's proposals are excessively tough compared to regulations used in the 13 other states that allow medical marijuana. They fear that other states could follow New Jersey's example.

Among the proposed rules:

-Patients would have to pay up to $200 every two years for a card that gives them the right to buy from an alternative treatment center. Those fees, like the $20,000 annual fee for treatment centers, would pay for the state's oversight.

NewsHawk: MedicalNeed:420 MAGAZINE
Author: Angela Delli Santi
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