Pubdate: Sun, 10 Oct 2010
Source: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Copyright: 2010 Courier-Post
Author: Bob Ingle


TRENTON -- It's time we leave medical decisions up to medical
personnel, since there is nothing in their makeup that equips
bureaucrats to understand the needs of people in distress.

New Jersey released proposed regulations for medical marijuana use and
the emphasis is not on helping the chronically and terminally ill.
Certainly, we don't want a law meant to help the needy used as a way
to get pot for fun, but adjustments have to be made.

State Sen. Nick Scutari, D-Union, shares the concern. He sponsored the
legislation and has a problem with changes made after his bill was
signed into law. "I don't want them rewriting my law," he told a
reporter. "That's not right."

The state Health Department was supposed to issue up to six
dispensaries to grow and sell medical marijuana with sites in
northern, central and southern parts of the state. Instead, the state
will license two growers who will supply four dispensaries.

That raises a lot of questions. Can two growers meet the demand? And
how far will people have to go to get help? When you're sick enough to
need medical pot, it's not like you feel like running around the state.

The administration also has moved the start-up date to July 1,

"It might not be a viable business model," said Roseanne Scott, the
New Jersey director of the Drug policy Alliance. "You've limited the
number of people who can get medical marijuana, you've limited the
amount they can get. It will be interesting to see if anybody actually
applies and thinks they can run one of these things."

The AP looked at the proposed rules and interviewed advocates who said
they are more strict than regulations used in 13 other states that
allow medical marijuana. For instance, patients would have to pay $200
every two years for a card giving them the right to buy it. That money
and the $20,000 annual fee for the treatment centers would pay for
state oversight.

Patients could only get marijuana prescriptions from doctors with whom
they have an ongoing relationship or who take responsibility for their

Let's say we have a middle-aged man who hates going to the doctor,
which seems to affect a lot of men. He finally gives in and gets a
diagnosis of cancer and is scheduled for chemo and radiation. Is that
an ongoing relationship?

Chris Goldstein with the Medical Marijuana in New Jersey organization
said, "I can say these regulations reflect far more politics than they
do science."

There are those who think the politics behind this is to make it so
inconvenient that patients will stay with prescription drugs, which
are a big business in this state. In fact, Gov. Chris Christie's chief
of staff came from drug giant Pfizer.

I've heard all the arguments about high-priced prescription drugs
being just as effective, and I'm here to tell you it is low-grade
horse manure. Twice in my life circumstances resulted in my being
responsible for two dear friends with terminal illness.

I have watched enough suffering to last me to the end of time. I have
seen the anti-nausea drugs get vomited up. I have heard people cry out
for me to do something, anything, in the middle of the night because
the pain pills stopped working. Have you watched people you love waste
away because they just have no appetite? You don't want to.

If patients are discouraged from getting medical marijuana the legal
way, they can continue to get it the old-fashioned illegal way, thus
supporting unsavory characters and putting people at risk.

This proposed system is too complex and too unsympathetic to people
who need help. There is a six-month period to evaluate and change it.
That's way too long and an unnecessary delay proposed by people who
are healthy, obviously.

If the administration can't be sympathetic and understand we're
talking about real suffering people, not numbers on paper, then the
Legislature should step in and tell the bureaucracy to go to hell.

The writer is senior political columnist for the Gannett New Jersey
newspapers. His column runs on Wednesdays and Sundays.  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D