Assembly Pushes Critical Changes to Medical Marijuana Program

Assembly hopes to override the Christie administration's setbacks.

Patients protesting outside the Trenton State House for reform.
Credit: Jennie Stormes

The New Jersey Assembly hopes to repair the medical marijuana program in New Jersey with its latest concurrent resolution, titled ACR224.

A concurrent resolution does not require a signature from the executive branch—in this case, Governor Chris Christie.

Introduced on March 9 and passed by the Assembly on March 26 (the day after Christie labeled recreational marijuana tax “blood money“), the resolution outlines several regulations from the Christie administration that contradict or impede the intentions of the New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act:

  1. The Christie administration mandates that the list of registered physicians in the program should be public. Because of this, some physicians are reluctant to register, “resulting in a shortage of physicians able to authorize…and unnecessarily restricting patient access.”
  2. The Christie administration mandates that minors need approval from up to three physicians to be certified for cannabis treatment. According to the resolution, “no other medication requires the approval of three licensed physicians before it may be issued to a patient,” including Schedule II drugs such as Oxycontin.
  3. Any time there is a petition to add a new qualifying medical condition to the program, the Commissioner of Health must assemble a panel of 15 health care professionals to review the decision, which “may cause significant and unnecessary delays” in approving new conditions. Right now, the list of approved conditions is slim, and there is strong demand from the both the public and the Assembly to include PTSD.
  4. The Christie administration does not allow dispensaries to sell medical marijuana through satellite locations or via home delivery. Since there are only three operating dispensaries in the state, patients who do not live near Montclair, Woodbridge or Egg Harbor City have trouble getting their medication.
  5. The Christie administration mandates medical marijuana in New Jersey should not exceed levels of 10% THC. The resolution points out that no other state has created a similar limit, and it restricts the ability of patients to find suitable strains to relieve their symptoms.

The Commissioner of Health, Mary E. O’Dowd, has less than a month to “amend or withdraw” these regulations. If not, the Legislature could force the changes, which is permissible under the state Constitution.

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