Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jan 2012
Source: Burlington County Times (NJ)
Copyright: 2012 Chris Goldstein
Author: Chris Goldstein


Two years ago, the New Jersey medical marijuana law was passed. The
point was to stop arresting seriously ill residents and provide a safe
access method for doctor-recommended cannabis.

But the program has struggled to operate under heavy restrictions. The
six alternative treatment centers, approved by New Jersey Department
of Health and Senior Services, are being given yet another hurdle.
Westampton officials turned down a land-use variance in a 4-3 vote,
joining other municipalities around the state that have refused the

Yet medical marijuana is the law, and it is resoundingly backed by
public opinion. For years, medical cannabis has been the top-polled
issue in New Jersey compared with all others, rating a whopping 86
percent favorability, according to a November 2011 Rutgers-Eagleton
poll. Nothing else even comes close.

Although the state's program is severely limited in almost every way
"" 10 percent THC, fewer qualifying conditions than other states, and
little choice in therapy products "" there will be some AIDS, cancer
and MS patients who will benefit from having it up and running. But it
won't happen until a community allows a treatment center to open.

Because of the extensive new regulations, the state cannot accept or
register any actual patients until one of the centers is approved.

So it's an ongoing Catch-22 for local residents with medical
conditions that unambiguously qualify under the law. They can still be
arrested and prosecuted "" right now "" for having any amount of
cannabis. They will not be fully "legal" until they have a patient
registry card and purchase their marijuana at one of the approved and
permitted alternative treatment centers.

Turning down such a vigorously regulated micro-industry hurts
residents in Burlington County and the entire region. Towns should be
welcoming the jobs and economic growth potential of this program,
while helping ease the worst suffering around us. Let's stop the
hurdles and allow this new law to move forward.

Chris Goldstein Board of directors Coalition for Medical Marijuana New
Jersey Willingboro 
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