March 28, 2010

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program Having Problems

March 28, 2010

I read a great article late last night that highlights the issues New Jersey is facing as it tries to implement its medical marijuana bill (click here). The State hopes to have its first harvest for patients this fall, and to distribute the state produced medicine through six dispensaries. However, as is the case ANYTIME the government tries to hold the monopoly on medical marijuana production, things are not likely to work out on time (Just ask New Mexico). New Jersey is trying to do something that other states have tried before, but have always failed at in the past.

The fact of the matter is, a Fall goal seems a bit farfetched. For one, there isn’t even a patient registry yet. How does the state expect to grow enough medicine for every patient, when they don’t even know how many patients they are going to have? Estimates are between 5,000 and 30,000, but even then, those are just guestimations. To say that they are going to have enough medicine in the Fall, is putting the cart before the horse, and shows just how dumb politicians are in the area of medical marijuana production. What happens if the crop fails? What happens if there is an explosion in applications, and there is not enough medicine to go around? People are going to be paying good money in order to get relief; what happens if they pony up the cash and then there is not enough medicine to go around because the State doesn’t know how to grow medicine as well as the private sector?

The State has claimed that they will be ready by the Fall, yet they don’t even have even one grower producing medicine yet! The State of New Jersey has contacted Rutgers University’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences to see if they would help, but no deal has been made. The quote from Rutgers shows just how far behind in the process they are, “We are in very new territory,” said Bradley Hillman, Senior Associate Director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers. “Every other state has some level of growth allowed by individuals. It butts up against some major issues – how state law will butt up against fed law. It’s my understanding even in the various states that have state laws allowing growth for personal use, you can still run afoul of federal agencies.” Does that sound like they are going to be ready by the Fall, or does that sound like they are very leery of being involved?

The university has posed its own questions in regards to the amount of marijuana plants it is going to take to supply the State of New Jersey. “We wouldn’t even attempt to proceed with this unless we first checked it out legally,” said associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers, Margaret Brennan. “In New Jersey where you talk about just six locations that are growing huge quantities, the state itself may have an issue with the federal government.” This is a problem I have always brought up when the government wants to take control of growing medical marijuana. If you are growing medicine for 30,000 people, it is going to take A LOT of plants, in a football stadium sized facility. How is the state going to grow high quality, high potency medicine under those conditions? Especially considering they have never done it before!

Even funding is going to be an issue. The original legislation DID NOT provide any general state funds to create, implement, and administer the program. According to the law, the program is going to be self funding, paid for by application fees, dispensary fees, caregiver fees, and background checks. Let me get this straight….Not only are patients forbidden from growing their own medicine, but they are going to be taxed out the nose in order to be part of a medical program that they desperately need?? Has anyone out there actually put a pen to some paper, whipped out a calculator, and crunched the numbers to see how much it is going to cost to make a facility that will produce enough medicine for a highly populated state? I guarantee when the numbers are finally tallied, it is going to result in fees and taxes that are SO HIGH for the patient, there is going to be very few that can afford to be a part of the program.

All of these problems have resulted in New Jersey’s Governor (Chris Christie), who is not a fan of the medical program to begin with, asking for an extension beyond the Fall deadline. This has some patients calling foul. “I am tired of feeling like a criminal when obtaining and using marijuana – which I always use responsibly and away from my children – just to lead a normal life,” said Chuck Kwiatkowski of Hazlet, who has MS. “Each day that goes by, at least 5,000 people miss their medication.” Another potential patient said, “I know a lot of people who are waiting for this law. We are not holding our breath, because Mr. Christie is not going to push this along. He’s a cop by nature. I find it hard to believe he will implement it. All he has to do is slow this down.”

The State is claiming that they just need more time. “We are rigorously trying to meet the time frame, but the first priority is to create a structure” that will be the “most restrictive, in the way the law was meant to be,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Poonam Alaigh. Maybe if they would just admit that they don’t know what they are doing, and that they are in over their heads, the government would be so despised by the NJ medical marijuana movement. Let this be a lesson to other states that are thinking about monopolizing the medical marijuana production in their state; you will fail, just like New Mexico and New Jersey have. Keep the government out of medical marijuana production and let the patients and caretakers produce their own medicine. It will ensure the best medicine possible for the patient, on time, and minimize any delays in implementing the program.


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