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Medical Marijuana Advocates Not Thrilled With Program [AUDIO]

The New Jersey Health Department has started officially registering patients who want to participate in the state medical marijuana.

David McNew, Getty Images

Medicinal pot advocates support the move, but nobody is jumping for joy.

Ken Wolski, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana, New Jersey, says the program is too cumbersome, bureaucratic and expensive.

Over the 3 years it has been delayed “many patients have died and suffered needlessly without having access to the type of pain relief and quality of life improvement that only marijuana can bring…There are hoops that patients will have to jump through that are really unfortunate, so we think if there are 300 patients that are registered by the end of the year, that’s going to be a lot.”

He says finding a doctor in the program is a major hurdle.

“From day one with the program, there was nothing that was really supportive of patients in this. It was done with the idea that marijuana is an illegal substance…The Jersey Health Department has been working hard to implement the program, but it’s been taking an awful long time, and they have, basically, their hands tied behind their back with the regulations that they have to work with.”

Cancer patient Vanessa Waltz agrees.

She says she’s glad the program is moving forward.

“But at the same time I think there’s still so many obstacles that have to be dealt with before the program really serves our patients in New Jersey…and I think that there’s no reason that this law couldn’t have been implemented back in 2010.”

She says, “The registration process itself is very restrictive – right now there are less than 1 percent of the physicians in the state registered for the program, so most people with serious illnesses. Their doctors are not part of the program, so they’re going to have to seek out a doctor, make an appointment. I imagine there will be a long waiting list to get appointments with these doctors.”

Waltz adds, “Numerous regulations and restrictions have been added since the legislation was passed, so the whole program has been a huge headache for everybody.”

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