Pubdate: Tue, 14 Dec 2010
Source: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Copyright: 2010 Courier-Post
Author: Michael Symons


TRENTON -- The state Senate voted Monday to force Gov. Chris
Christie's administration to revamp proposed rules putting into effect
the new medical marijuana law, even though the state is back at the
drawing board already.

The resolution says rules proposed for the program in mid-November by
the Department of Health and Senior Services aren't consistent with
what the Legislature intended in the law enacted on Gov. Jon S.
Corzine's last day in office in January.

But the resolution, which compels the Christie administration to
withdraw or amend its rules within 30 days, is sort of symbolic,
though it does set a deadline in mid-January for new rules to be
proposed. Health and Senior Services Department spokeswoman Donna
Leusner said a new rule proposal is being developed.

Two of the four concerns specified in the resolution were addressed in
a compromise announced Dec. 3 by Christie and Assemblyman Reed
Gusciora, D-Mercer. Those were the number and responsibilities for
alternative treatment centers and the conditions for when a doctor can
recommend a patient for medical marijuana.

The Senate pushed forward with its vote, which follows a 48-22 vote in
the Assembly on Nov. 22, because sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari,
D-Union, still has concerns about aspects of the proposal not being
changed, such as a timetable for making additional medical conditions
eligible for the program and setting a maximum limit on the strength
of the marijuana that can prescribed.

"Despite a so-called compromise, I believe key areas of the
regulations still would not comply with the intent of the law and
would make it much too difficult for eligible patients to access
relief through marijuana," Scutari said.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak dismissed the vote as gamesmanship
and said Scutari is now adding concerns not addressed in the original

"Today's transparent maneuvering by Sen. Scutari is pure and simple
politics," Drewniak said.

Leusner said 63 physicians have registered online to indicate their
interest in working with patients to determine their eligibility to
receive medical marijuana once the program takes effect, probably next

A patient registry will begin operating soon, she said.

The vote in the Senate was 22-16, with Democrats generally in support
and Republicans opposed. The only exceptions were that Sen. Richard
Codey, D-Essex, voted no while Sens. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, and
Brian Stack, D-Hudson, didn't vote.
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