Could NJ’s Medical Marijuana Program Be a Target for Feds [AUDIO]
New Jersey is still months away from opening its first medical marijuana dispensary and now comes word that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is cracking down on growers and sellers of medical marijuana even in states where it is legal.
The lawmaker who sponsored the Garden State's medical pot law in the General Assembly doesn't think New Jersey will be a target of federal law enforcement officials.
"I think the federal government just wants to send a message to those states with lax medicinal marijuana laws," says Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. "I don't think that's going to be the case in New Jersey. We certainly have a Governor (Chris Christie) who has put more regulations in place than people would argue are necessary."
New Jersey's regulations are so strict, some accuse Christie of doing anything he possibly can to stall access to medical marijuana. It's a claim the Governor has consistently denied. Earlier this month the state issued its first permit for an Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) to begin growing medical marijuana, but those seeking relief from the pot will still be waiting for months to get and that's only if things go perfectly.
"The department is committed to ensuring that medicinal marijuana is safely and securely available to patients as quickly as possible," says State health commissioner Mary O'Dowd. Our goal is to implement a program that allows qualified patients to obtain marijuana in a timely, safe and secure manner."
Greenleaf Compassion Center has been issued a permit by the Department of Health and Senior Services to begin growing medicinal marijuana. The permit was issued after a comprehensive review including background checks of Greenleaf's officers, several site visits by the Medicinal Marijuana Program to its grow facility and Department approval of Greenleaf's safety and security systems.
At an Assembly Budget Committee hearing earlier this month, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson asked O'Dowd when those qualified patients who are suffering chronic diseases can actually get the relief they crave through the medical marijuana.
"I have taken the steps necessary to allow them (Greenleaf) to be able to prduce this product within three to four months," explained O'Dowd. "Assuming they meet all of the requirements, both the law and the rules of the program."
Christie's proposed State Budget includes almost $800,000 to support the staffing and operation of the medical marijuana program.
In anticipation of Greenleaf being issued a permit to dispense, the Department has made public the names of more than 100 participating physicians on its website. Those doctors were informed that their names would be made public so patients may contact them. Physicians must have a bona fide and ongoing relationship with qualified patients they are recommending for the program.
The patient registry is in the final stages of development. Once the patient registry opens in several weeks, physicians will go online and enter the name, address, date of birth and qualifying condition of a patient, creating a secure patient identification number that the patient can then use to register electronically. As part of the registration process, patients will be required to submit a photo by mail to the Department in order to obtain an identification card from the Medicinal Marijuana Program.
"New Jersey's Medicinal Marijuana Program is based on a medical-model which requires physicians and qualified patients to have an ongoing relationship," says Dr. Arturo Brito, Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services, which includes the Medicinal Marijuana Program. "Physicians will have to monitor patients on medicinal marijuana as part of managing their medical condition."