On July 19, 2011 Governor Christie announced Medical Marijuana Program Implementation. It took more than one and one half year from enactment to implementation. So far 16 states have passed medical marijuana laws.
A recent New York Times editorial op-ed supports medical marijuana, calling the legalization of marijuana as a “sensible and humane” thing to do. While saying this, the newspaper urged NY Governor Andrew Cuomo to re-evaluate medical cannabis and permit seriously ill people in New York to have the option of marijuana.
However, a dispute has arisen within the congress of New Jersey as to the limitations of the New Jersey Marijuana laws. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a principal sponsor of the law, said he’s glad Gov. Chris Christie decided to move forward with the program, which, according to Scutari is the most limiting in the country. During a July 27 NJToday interview, Scutari stated that "Certainly we're going to be the most restrictive state in the land … in terms of who can get medical marijuana, how it will be prescribed and how it will be achieved in terms of moving it into the marketplace.
In New Jersey medical marijuana cannot be prescribed; but doctors can only recommend it for patients. Although New Jersey’s list of conditions for prescribing Marijuana is in harmony with other states but unlike other sates, only New Jersey and Washington, D.C. do not provide for chronic pain to be used as a basis for, prescribing marijuana.
Attorney Tamar Todd, of the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform organization, said that while "pain is one of the categories where it is most needed," it also is "the category that allows the most abuse."
In order for a New Jersey doctor to recommend marijuana as treatment a he or she must be registered with the state health department; New Jersey is the only state to required doctor registration. Once a registered doctor recommends medical marijuana for a New Jersey resident, it can only be obtained in one of six dispensaries called by the state as "alternative treatment centers."
The law does not permit patients to grow marijuana at home and limits the amount prescribed to two ounces per month.
In early June, a 19-member international panel called the "war on drugs" a failure and recommended the United States consider legalizing marijuana as a way to undermine criminal organizations.
On June 23, 2011 Reps. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Barney Frank, D-Mass., say they will introduce a bill to curb the government's role in marijuana law enforcement. The bill's authors said the measure isn't an attempt to legalize marijuana, but meant to ease conflicts between federal and state laws.
Advocates for Medical Marijuana argue its benefits. A recent PBS video summarizes the science behind the use of cannabis as a medicine, which claims that cannabinoids selectively target and kill cancer cells.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Medicinal Marijuana Program
- How do I get approved to use medicinal marijuana?
Your physician must register with DHSS to participate in the program, and must attest that you are undergoing treatment for an active debilitating medical condition, and may benefit from the use of medicinal marijuana to relieve symptoms. This must be a physician who has ongoing responsibility for your care.
- How soon can patients register and obtain medicinal marijuana?
Patients’ physicians must first register with the Medicinal Marijuana Program. Once registered and verified by DHSS staff, physicians will then be able to certify their patients as having qualifying conditions. Physicians will receive access codes to provide to their patients so that their patients can register either on-line or through a paper application. Patient registration will begin later this year and patients can watch this webpage for information.
- What is a bona fide physician relationship?
The physician has seen the patient for at least one year OR;
the physician has seen the patient four times for the patient’s debilitating condition OR;
the physician assumes responsibility for providing management and care of the patient’s debilitating condition after conducting a comprehensive medical history and physical examination, including a personal review of the patient’s medical record maintained by other treating physicians reflecting the patient’s reaction and response and response to conventional medical therapies.
- What conditions qualify someone to participate?
Patients must be certified by their physicians as having a debilitating medical condition, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Terminal illness also qualifies if the physician determines the patient has less than 12 months to live.
The following conditions qualify if they are resistant to conventional medical therapy: seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; or glaucoma.
The following conditions qualify if severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia, or wasting syndrome results from the condition or its treatment: positive status for AIDS, HIV or cancer.
- My condition is debilitating but it’s not on that list. What can I do?
After an initial assessment of the program, patients can file a petition with the program once a year.
- It’s too difficult for me to travel. Can someone help me get medicinal marijuana?
Yes. A qualified patient can identify a primary caregiver, who will be registered with the Alternative Treatment Center that provides your medicinal marijuana. The caregiver must undergo a criminal background check.
- Can dispensaries deliver?
No, there will be no home delivery.
- How much medicinal marijuana can an approved patient get each month?
A maximum of two ounces in any 30 day period.
- Can I share or give away medicinal marijuana?
No. Only qualifying patients may obtain, possess and use marijuana that has been lawfully obtained through an ATC. You may not share or give away your medicinal marijuana. Any person who obtains, possesses, uses or sells marijuana in any manner that is not authorized under the Compassionate Use Law will be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution.
- Can patients consume medicinal marijuana on-site at the Alternative Treatment Center that supplies their marijuana?
- Can dispensaries provide food products with marijuana in them?
- Can I grow my own medicinal marijuana?
- Is there a fee to register?
Yes. The registration fee for patients and caregivers is $200, which is valid for two years. A reduced fee of $20 would be paid by patients who qualify for certain state or federal assistance programs.
- Is medicinal marijuana covered by Medicaid?
Medicinal marijuana is not a covered service under Medicaid.
- Who will grow the medicinal marijuana?
Nonprofit growers were chosen through a public, competitive process.
- How many Alternative Treatment Centers will there be?
There are 6 nonprofit ATCs chosen through a competitive process.
- Where will the ATCs be located?
ATCs selected for dispensing medicinal marijuana will be located in the north, central and southern parts of the state. The proposed rules have established three regions based on New Jersey counties. Specifically they are central (Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union); northern (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren) and southern (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem).
- What other states have passed medicinal marijuana laws?
New Jersey was the 14th state to enact a medicinal marijuana law. The other states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia has also enacted a law.