Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jul 2012
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2012 Asbury Park Press
Author: Declan O'Scanlon
Note: Declan O'Scanlon is a Republican assemblyman representing the
13th Legislative District.


Christie Administration Has Been Responsive on Issue

I was surprised and saddened to see the editorial Wednesday titled 
"Med marijuana: What's the deal?" The Asbury Park Press' editorial 
board is typically thorough and factually accurate, but in this 
instance it couldn't be more off the mark.

While this program appeared to get off to a slow start, we have seen 
real, and substantial, progress over the past year, particularly the 
past few months.

The problem right now isn't the program or the progress. The problem 
is the Press' lack of factual followup. The same day the editorial 
appeared in the Press, an article ran in The Wall Street Journal 
titled, "Legal for some, pot crops up in N.J.," highlighting the 
headway being made in our program.

The same people whom the Press quotes as taking issue with the 
administration - quotes from months ago - are quoted from the past 
few days praising the people in the Christie administration and the 
folks directly running the program. That is downright sloppy - and 
ultimately unfair to those of us who have broken our butts to get 
this program on track and moving forward.

One facility run by the Greenleaf center is already growing plants 
that are now a foot high. They should begin dispensing the 
much-needed medicine to patients as early as mid-September. A second 
facility run by the Compassionate Care Foundation hopes to have a 
crop ready by November. The claim that none of the centers around the 
state have begun operating is just plain wrong.

The editorial says the Christie administration is at the heart of the 
delays, yet the Journal article quotes Bill Thomas, CEO of 
Compassionate Care, as saying, "We have had complete cooperation with 
the Department of Health. They are helping us." While these two 
facilities are moving forward, the other four are "searching or in 
negotiations for locations," according to the Department of Health.

In my efforts to move this program forward, I have found the 
administration to be responsive to fair and legitimate questions or 
issues every step of the way. John O'Brien, the executive director of 
the medicinal marijuana program appointed by the governor, and 
Charlie McKenna, the governor's chief counsel, have received 
well-deserved praise from the people legitimately trying to move 
their operations forward.

My office has reached out to every one of the approved entities. Some 
have really engaged and some have completely blown off offers of help 
- - now having only themselves to blame for their lack of progress. But 
no entity at this point can legitimately blame the administration for 
a lack of progress.

If all of the approved entities don't begin to move forward, we will 
at some point have to consider revoking the approvals of those not 
moving forward, and reissue those rights to other entities. While the 
guidelines the Christie administration put in place are strict, it is 
the high bar set by those guidelines that has given our program here 
in New Jersey the extremely high level of credibility it has 
throughout the country. The programs in California and Colorado are 
complete disasters by comparison. The strict regulations in New 
Jersey destroy the arguments of anyone fear-mongering or casting 
aspersions on our program or medical marijuana in general.

We all want our patients suffering from illness and chronic pain to 
get relief, but we also need to make sure we put the right program in 
place and administer it thoroughly and carefully, to build 
credibility with a somewhat skeptical public. The polls show a 
majority of people favor medical marijuana, but too many folks then 
turn around and say they don't want the facilities in their back 
yard. The comprehensive, clear, consistent and strict design of our 
program - a design devised by the Christie administration - should 
allay any reason for fear.
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