Pubdate: Tue, 9 Nov 2010
Source: Daily Record, The (Parsippany, NJ)
Copyright: 2010 The Daily Record
Author: Jason Method, Statehouse Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


TRENTON -- Medical marijuana advocates successfully convinced some 
state legislators Monday that Gov. Chris Christie's administration 
had overreached in its attempt to limit New Jersey's new medical marijuana law.

Two committees, one in the state Senate and the other in the 
Assembly, passed resolutions declaring that proposed regulations 
would not fulfill the intent of the law, which was signed as one of 
the last acts of Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine when he left office in January.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, shepherded one resolution through 
the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on a 
6-1 vote. She said that medical marijuana might have been a better 
alternative to the morphine given to husband as he died.

"Marijuana would have been preferable to the other drugs that 
eliminate interpersonal communication skills at a time when those 
skills are so important," Weinberg said.

The other resolution unanimously passed the Assembly Regulatory 
Oversight and Gaming Committee.

The resolutions are in reaction to pending regulations put forth by 
the state Department of Health and Senior Services. If the 
resolutions are approved by both houses of the state Legislature, the 
department must rewrite some of the rules, according to a lobbyist on 
the issues and the spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

The proposed rules would limit the number of illnesses that would 
qualify for the marijuana treatment; require patients to have an 
ongoing relationship with a physician who would have to certify that 
other drugs had failed to alleviate pain; and prohibit the marijuana 
from containing more than 10 percent of its active ingredient.

The proposed rules would also forbid a medical marijuana dispensary 
to be located in a drug-free school zone, and would bar the 
dispensaries from serving beverages or food.

Christie has said publicly that he wants New Jersey to avoid problems 
experienced in other states, where medical marijuana laws have 
created a cottage industry of store-front clinics, and where the drug 
is easily dispensed for a host of ailments.

Some activists said in interviews Monday that they ultimately want 
marijuana legalized, but a dozen or so suffering from severe 
illnesses testified and pleaded their case to get easier access.

Diana Riportella, 54, of Egg Harbor Township, suffering from Lou 
Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS), sat in 
front of both Assembly and Senate committees and cried as she stated 
that only marijuana helps to ease the pain and cope with her situation.

"When I smoke marijuana, it makes me feel like there is hope for me," 
Riportella said. "Please, don't make me suffer anymore."

But Martin Lynch of the New Jersey Narcotic Officers Association 
argued in favor of the more strict, proposed regulations because of 
abuses that he said have occurred in other states.

He said in an interview that narcotic officers from around the 
country have reported widespread problems with the new medical marijuana laws.

"I base my opinions on what I have seen in the streets for 25 years," 
Lynch said.

"'These dispensaries would be a magnet for crime."
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