Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2012
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2012 Asbury Park Press
Author: Bob Jordan


TRENTON - Princeton resident Vanessa Waltz thought the New Jersey 
Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act would be flourishing by now.

The law allows for New Jersey residents suffering from cancer, AIDS, 
Crohn's disease and other serious conditions to obtain and use 
therapeutic cannabis with a doctor's prescription.

But two years after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed the medical pot act 
into law, the program remains inactive.

Waltz said she has Stage 3 cancer, and is out of work.

"My job is fighting my cancer," she said. "If the marijuana program 
began operating, it would give me a great sense of relief."

Waltz and other medical marijuana advocates attended a news 
conference outside the Statehouse Wednesday, calling on Gov. Chris 
Christie and the Legislature to make fixes that will allow the 
program to start.

The latest obstacle has come from local officials, who have been 
enacting ordinances to block marijuana farms and dispensaries from 
doing business in their towns.

Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, has proposed legislation 
that would extend Right to Farm Act protections to the development of 
medical marijuana cultivation and distribution centers, thereby 
curbing local interference.

But Christie has panned O'Scanlon's idea, saying last week he "will 
try to enforce the law and implement it, but I will not do it by 
forcing municipalities to take these facilities."

Like Waltz, Stephen Cuspilich is a sufferer waiting for relief. He 
has Crohn's disease.

"I think it's a joke," Cuspilich said of the stalemate. "It's been 
two years, and it's not up and running."

Cuspilich, a resident of Southampton, Burlington County, said he 
smokes marijuana to cope with his disease and insists he should be 
afforded legal protections.

"If they think patients are waiting, they're wrong. I treat the law 
as if it's already passed. I use cannabis on a regular basis. It's 
either that or take five prescriptions that I don't want to use 
because of the side effects," he said.

The news conference was organized by the Coalition for Medical 
Marijuana New Jersey.

Ken Wolski, the organization's executive director and a registered 
nurse, said Christie "has delayed and obstructed this law since he 
took office."

But the Legislature has also dropped the ball, Wolski said, accusing 
members of the Senate and Assembly of "abandoning the seriously ill 
residents that this law was passed to protect."

Wolski said a work-around is available to thwart the prohibitions on 
marijuana commerce put in place by local governments.

The answer is amending the New Jersey law to allow for home 
cultivation, Wolski said. He said language to allow micro-plots of up 
to six plants was taken out of the bill when legislative committees 
were vetting it in 2009.

Toms River resident Jim Miller, a co-founder of the coalition, said 
changes to the law also should address the quantity and potency of 
pot that will be allowed to individuals in New Jersey. Miller said 
the law is too restrictive.

Jay Lassiter, a Cherry Hill resident who is HIV-positive, said delays 
are mostly attributable to Christie. Other advocates noted that 
Christie once assured them that the program would be operating by the 
end of 2011.

The governor's lack of leadership and indecision over the past two 
years has created a climate of fear," Lassiter said. "It's incredibly 


About the law

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed by 
the state Assembly by a 48-14 vote and by the Senate 25-13 on Jan. 
11, 2010, and signed into law by then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine seven days 
later. After two years, no patient identification cards have been 
issued and no treatment centers are open.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom