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Will New Jersey Ever Get Medical Marijuana Program

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New Jersey medical marijuana“High”lighting the Hurdles of NJ’s Medical Marijuana Regulations

Joseph Stevens, Greenleaf Compassion Center (A NJ Non-Profit Corporation) and his staff have been carefully studying and researching state medical marijuana laws and successful business models around the country for more then four years. They are well-versed not only in these state laws, but also in safe procurement methods, quality patient care, and perhaps most importantly, how to responsibly and professionally provide medical marijuana to seriously, often terminally ill New Jersey residents. It is clear that New Jersey must demonstrate the ability to provide medical marijuana in the most restrictive and responsible manner, serving as a template for other states. We do applaud the efforts of Dr. Walsh and her staff to create a program that not only benefits the patient population of NJ, but also restricts access to only the people in need. However, the regulations put forth would create a business environment that is not conducive to functioning properly, first and foremost for the patient, and secondarily for the small business owner.

The draft regulations allow for four main centers with the option for each center to have one satellite location, eight centers total to dispense medication. Also included in the regulations is the creation of two growing facilities for the entire state of NJ. This type of program leaves the dispensing facilities at the mercy of the growers and also creates a monopoly that restricts fair and competitive business practices. Greenleaf Compassion Center asks the State to consider giving all treatment centers the capability to grow medication; half of the medication (1 ounce/month for each registered patient with the center) being grown at the Alternative Treatment Centers that dispense the medication and the two main growing facilities to grow and manage the needs of half the entire patient population. This will reduce cost for the smaller treatment centers and ultimately for patient, creating a competitive business environment and ensuring the survival of each entity. Without the ability to cultivate their own medication, the dispensaries will not be able to meet their daily business expenses and will ultimately fail. After careful cost analysis, having two main growers in NJ, price per gram would exceed $70.00. After adding both centers’ mark-up for expenses, the cost per gram could be in excess of $150.00. This far exceeds the national average of $20.00 per/gram and will force patients to seek out black market dealers and force legally registered centers out of business.

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The draft regulations limit the number of strains that can be grown to three for each of the two growers. There are many strains of medical marijuana and the various strains provide different types of relief for different symptoms (e.g. pain, nausea, muscle spasms). By keeping the three strain restriction, the availability of quality medicine will restrict proper treatment and limit the effectiveness of this program. . If the State truly wants to ‘lead by example,’ we must find a middle ground between proper treatment and controlled access. Many of our fellow statesmen, neighbors, friends and family members are suffering, we owe it to them to supply them with a controlled, fair plan that will adequately address their needs while satisfying the need for strict regulations that our state is striving for. Many medical breakthroughs have been made over the past few years with medical marijuana and it is our firm belief that if the state limits THC content and available strains, it will fall behind in a growing industry that has the potential generate the taxes needed to assist the State with it’s budgetary considerations in the years to come.

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The draft regulations limit the amount of THC that any strain can have to 10 percent. No other state that allows access to medical marijuana has such a rule and it is impractical and impossible to limit the amount of THC that a plant will produce. This can be compared to growing tomato plants and trying to limit each plant to only grow three tomatoes. Dr. Walsh also mentioned that there are private firms that have the capability to test for THC levels within the medication. While her statement is correct, these private entities will not take on the responsibility due to federal penalties that may be imposed upon them. The only possible alternative for testing THC levels is to do them in-house or have the State take on that responsibility.

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The draft regulations call for a $200.00 fee for a patient or caregiver registry cards. While there is a reduced fee of $20.00 for patients in one of several low income programs (e.g. SSI), this will still leave the majority of patients paying an exorbitant fee of $200.00, which will be the highest in the country. Caregivers will also have to pay the fee, adding to the burden. There needs to be a sliding scale for patient registry card prices. Please consider raising the $20,000.00 application fee to $40,000.00 and reduce the patient registration fee. In comparison to other licenses in the state (i.e. liquor licenses) a $40,000.00 licensing fee and renewal fee is more than fair.

Repeatedly, Governor Christie has stated his desire to protect NJ from becoming another California or Colorado calamity with respect to marijuana dispensaries. If these states were operating as poorly as the Governor claims, reforms would have been passed and restrictions put in place. This has not occurred. Regulations that may appear lax in some states were indeed put into place for control yet balancing this with the existing Federal laws and still being able to respect and protect patient rights for access to much needed medication.

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Johnny Green

13 Comments

  1. I think it really comes down to the doctors who are prescribing the mmj and the dispensaries who are selling them to individuals who actually have prescriptions from their doctors.

  2. This whole deal in New Jersey is a bunch of crap.What we all need do is find a good street connection with a good strain and self medicate as we have been doing for years. It’s no wonder this state is laughted at in the national community.Say to hell with Christie and all of his anti mmj cronies.How many people get real hard core narcotics and don’t have to worry about a thing.My cousin has a very painful,completely debilitating problem in his neck.Sorry,I don’t know what exactly it is,but he gets fetanyl patches,oxycodone,in addition to morphine.I don’t care how much pain your in,no one needs this amount of narcotics.Maybe we should continue an argument for euthanasia?? I take 135 mg of methadone a day,that’s enough to kill a horse,but I had a long time to build up a resistance to narcotics.

  3. Joe,

    While I thought much of your editorial was great, I found your discussion of costs disappointing. DHSS isn’t planning to offer any support for the ATCs to make it worth the $20,000 license fee, and certainly not enough to make it worthwhile for ATCs to pay them twice that amount. And, seriously, do you know any other case where there is a $20,000 licensing fee (every time you turn around) for a non-profit organization to operate? Please don’t compare an ATC license to a liquor license – let’s not confuse medical with recreational use.

    Marianne

  4. To Louis D.

    You are mistaken about Ken’s dead wife. Cheryl was my wife. So how much do you really know about what you are writing about? You certainly got the easy part screwed up.

    FYI…the most important thing that had happened to get a mmj law written in NJ happened in 2002. The New Jersey State Nurses Association passed a resolution that year saying that the governor and the legislature should act expecitiously in getting a medical marijuana law passed in NJ. That NJSNA resolution was authored by Ken Woksi.

    Cheryl did more than anybody to see that a mmj bill got written in NJ even though she knew that she would die before it became a reality. You might want to research Cheryl Miller before you talk about her again. Getting your facts straight is the FIRST thing you should do before airing things out.

    I would like to sit down with you as well for a face to face discussion…on record. We all know that mmj prohibitionists are not willing to go on record face to face because they are cowards without the courage of their convictions. I would hope that does not apply to you as well. I look forward to continuing this in person. Let me know when and where is good for you.

    We are all going the same way. We should start acting like it…at least in the public domain.

    Jim Miller

  5. I would like to hope that John’s assessment that the Weed Blog has political support is true. You won’t get anything done in Trenton without political support. Just for clarification, which legislators do you have access to and what do they think of your plan?

    I have been working on medical marijuana issues longer than anyone in NJ (since 1991). You can still see some of the fun stuff on youtube. I watched my wife suffer with MS when she didn’t have cannabis. I have an interest in how things work out here. Rational discussion is imperative, both within and with the outside. NJ is a small state. I prefer to have important discussions in person. Let me know when and where is a good for us to get together.
    Jim Miller

  6. Ken,

    The first law that came out you were unhappy with and now that the DHSH have created the regulations your group wants the first regulations back. Make up your mind! Your group will not be happy with anything the state does and you will continue to delay the program for the people who need it most.

    You are selfish and trying to exploit your dead wife. That is a shame.

    I think saying Ken is good at doing nothing is a little harsh but I do think he should do what he knows, so shut up and keep cleaning bed pans. It is my experience that the patients of NJ do not want you speaking for the! The state see you and your organization as a Bunch of Nuts! You appointed your self as an expert and we all can see through it.

    Just my opinion,
    Lou

  7. hahaha. Ken needs to do what he does best and that is Nothing.

    From what I understand Joe Stevens has more patient and political support then you could ever hope for.

    Give it up Ken.

    John

  8. Ken,

    It seems you have another agenda. I guess this is why no one is willing to work with your organization. The state considers your group extremists and You or your organization does nothing but harm the medical marijuana program and the patients that would benefit from it.

    It seems If the DHSS increases the 20,000.00 fee to 40,000 and reduces patient registration to 100.00 then the extra 20,000.00 from the ATC would help 800 patients be able to afford the program. I will assume you want it all and your mother never taught you the word compromise. I am also sure once the ATC are up and running they will recycle their profits back to the patients to help with the registration fee. Look at the bigger picture and stop thinking only of your selfish intents.

    You are a hater as the last poster called you out.

    Pete Ramsey, ESQ.

  9. how r u gonna hate on the weed blog and then post a comment? if it wasnt for weed blog you wouldn’t even know about this post. scandoulous ken

  10. I don’t see why having two cultivation centers AND letting the ATCs grow one ounce per patient would satisfy anybody in the Christie government. The DHSS rules seem driven by the desire for absolute control and minimal access. This just adds another layer of complexity without any more control.

    As to charging the ATCs an extra $20K for their license in lieu of charging patients $200 for their cards, $20,000 would replace the $200 fee of only 100 patients. DHSS can do simply math and probably wouldn’t find this a compromise. Assuming an eventual 1000 patients per ATC, this extra $20K would allow a $20 reduction per patient of the $200 fee while still allowing DHSS to receive the same cash.

    And having a letter published in “The Weed Blog” is probably not the best approach to be taken seriously by the Christie government.

  11. marijuana will fuck your life up

    the cops will make sure of it
    the politicians will tax and manipulate it

    Jersey has plenty of good hydro , thanks to the seed Co’s

    When these politicians get done tearing apart the marijuana law the people will pass more freedom through votes and education.

    The is a Guy here in LA the ‘NJ WEEDMAN” he runs a rastafari temple with medical marijuana as its religous ,spiritual and medical treatments or offerings
    here is a link
    http://www.libertybelltemple.com/Home.htm

    Anyway I would like to see the state of NJ vote this guy into the NJ Medical Marijuana Fiasco
    He could show them how to get it done in 1 month!

    but NJ will fight this till the end.

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