Come next year, Rutgers University could be one of the leaders in medical marijuana research and development.
A New Jersey lawmaker who was instrumental in helping pass a medical marijuana law back in January is now suggesting that the state's premier university become a national center for research and curriculum into the plant and its benefits.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) is already cooperating with Republican Governor Chris Christie's administration to delay implementation of the law by 90 days.
But even as the Assembly Budget Committee voted 7-0-2 to release the delayed implementation to the full Assembly for a full vote, Gusciora suggested his fellow legislators turn Rutgers into "a national academic leader in marijuana research and curriculum."
In a news release, Gusciora said, "One such benefit could be patent rights from the development of new strains and treatments for medicinal marijuana. Students could also learn everything from pain management strategies to running a dispensary." However, Gusciora did not put any such language into the amended legislation to delay implementation that is working its way through the legislature.
However, some advocates for medical marijuana are skeptical.
"We don't really think that's realistic," said Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ. "The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has been trying for the past nine years to get DEA approval" for such research, he noted -- and has so far UMass has failed.
Gusciora also floated another trial balloon to allow Rutgers as well as hospitals across the state to become dispensaries for medical marijuana once the Christie Administration writes the rules and regulations that will put the law into effect.
Another advocate, Chris Goldstein, also of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, said "Rutgers University could be an important part of New Jersey's medical marijuana program without being written into the law."
Goldstein also noted the challenges UMass has been having with the DEA.
If the amended law is approved by both the Assembly and State Senate in the coming days, October 1st would be the new deadline for the Department of Health and Senior Services to draw up the rules that will govern medical marijuana use in New Jersey.
Advocates think that would mean the first sales at the Alternative Treatment Centers would start by early January.
I don't think this is unrealistic at all, we just saw Greenway University in Colorado be the first to receive state sponsorship and it's an all marijuana school. I was hoping that Greenway would lead to more educational and research programs in other schools and it looks like it did. We are getting closer and closer to legitimizing medical marijuana to the mainstream public and giving the industry the resources it needs to really improve the lives of the thousands of patients in the country who depend on cannabis to cope with their illnesses. Let's hope everything works out in New Jersey.