Medical marijuana program under scrutiny in New Jersey
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton), one of the lawmakers who led the charge to establish New Jersey's medical marijuana program, said that in the near future he will present information from a public hearing on the topic, held on Monday, to the state Department of Health.
"What we want to do is make sure that the product is safe, that it's accessible, that physicians are comfortable taking part in the program, and that it's potent enough to take care of the ailments that medical marijuana has shown great benefit for," Gusciora said.
In January 2010, Gov. Jon Corzine signed the medical marijuana bill into law, but critics have accused the governor of intentionally slowing the implementation of the program. Christie has steadfastly denied that. In 2013, he signed a bill to allow terminally ill children access to the drug, but said he would not expand the program further.
According to a statement on the NJDOH webpage, "The New Jersey Department of Health is committed to the effective implementation of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act."
The site also contains frequently asked questions and answers about the program.
"There are supposed to be six dispensaries, but only three alternative treatment centers are open in the entire state," said Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. "It's just not working the way it was supposed to work."
Eligible medical marijuana patients who find it too difficult to legally obtain the drug often get it illegally on the streets, Gusciora said. Wolski suggested that New Jersey allow patients to grow their own.
"You know, that guarantees access to patients who need it," he said.
At a town hall meeting in 2014, Christie left the door open to further alterations to the medical marijuana program, but said he would not sign a bill to legalize pot in the Garden State.
"If there are changes that need to be made that will help people who are truly sick, I'm open to making those changes," Christie said then, "but what I fear is that a lot of people use really tragic circumstances as an excuse to say, 'Let's legalize.'"