The New Jersey State General Assembly passed a three bill package on March 26 that would loosen the restrictions currently in place that limit access to medical marijuana, as well as adding PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to the list of qualifying conditions. This has been referred to as a "rebuking" of Governor Christie's strict regulations currently in place. This comes on the heels of Governor Christie's comments made on March 25 that tax revenue generated if marijuana was legal for recreational use would be "blood money."
Under the State Constitution, the legislature has the power to review any rule or regulation adopted or proposed by an administrative agency to determine if the rule or regulation is consistent with the intent of the legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is designed to implement. If the measure passes the Senate, the Department of Health will have 30 days to change or withdraw certain regulations governing medical marijuana in New Jersey, and if they do not ,the legislature may by passage of another concurrent resolution, exercise its authority under the constitution to invalidate the rules and regulations in whole or in part. The measure may not be vetoed.
Proponents of the three bills contend that the purpose of the program is to provide relief to critically ill patients, yet the current law seems to create more of a burden for them.
The first resolution, ACR-224, passed on 44-20 vote challenges the following requirements of the current law:
- That physicians authorized to prescribe medical marijuana in New Jersey be placed on a public list. (This requirement, that was not in the original bill passed by former Governor Corzine, is said to have kept many doctors from joining the list, as they do not want to be known as "pot doctors");
- That a minor have the recommendation of three doctors and a psychiatrist before being able to enroll. (No other drug currently requires such strict requirements);
- That dispensaries not be permitted to produce edible forms of marijuana.
- Limits the levels of THC that marijuana may contain to 10 percent;
- Limits the number of strains of marijuana that can be cultivated;
- That the commissioner of the DOH appoint a panel of up to 15 healthcare professionals to review and make recommendations on petitioner for approval of new medical conditions for medical marijuana.
The next resolution, A-4286, that passed on a 57-11-5 vote would change the current rules and allow alternative treatment centers to transfer to another alternative treatment center any excess inventory of: marijuana seeds, seedlings, or paraphernalia, marijuana plants, or marijuana packaged for use by qualifying patients in any form authorized by law.
The third resolution to pass, A-3726, that passed on a 53-13-7 vote would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions that would qualify a patient to participate in the state's medical marijuana program.
This appears to be New Jersey following other states attempting to relax the regulations in place on medical marijuana. This comes on the heels of the recent federal legislation, The Carers Act, introduced by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) , Corey Booker (D- NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), which seeks to re- classify marijuana from a Schedule I banned substance under the Controlled Substances Act to a Schedule II drug.
By: John Kutner