Pubdate: Wed, 17 Oct 2012
Source: Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ)
Copyright: 2012 Home News Tribune


The good news for suffering patients in New Jersey is that medical 
marijuana might - and we emphasize might - actually become available 
by the end of the year. That's the hope, at least, after the state at 
long last recently issued its first permit to a designated medical 
marijuana dispensary, allowing Greenleaf Compassion Center in 
Montclair to begin selling the drug.

But for the more than 300 patients now pursuing registration with the 
state Health Department to be eligible for the medical marijuana, 
we'd suggest holding off on any sighs of relief. Greenleaf isn't 
ready to begin operations just yet, and Gov. Chris Christie may yet 
have a trick or two up his sleeve to continue blocking implementation 
of the program.

New Jersey legislators voted to legalize medical marijuana more than 
two years ago, with former Gov. Jon Corzine signing the law in 
January 2010. The program was supposed to begin that summer, but the 
state never came close to meeting that goal.

Officials had a responsibility to deliver on the promise of that law 
- - and part of that responsibility was to act quickly. Instead, 
Christie and his administration have thrown up roadblock after 
roadblock to delay - and perhaps even try to prevent-the pot from 
becoming available.

First, Christie demanded a detailed review of the program. State 
officials wrung their hands over the desired potency of the drug, 
what specific categories of illnesses would be eligible for medical 
marijuana and the proper number of dispensaries that should be active 
across the state, among other provisions.

More recently, the dispensaries themselves have been confronting a 
variety of strict regulations and interminable background checks for 
employees, among other stall tactics. The end result is that if all 
goes well from this point forward, medical marijuana might be in the 
hands of patients a full three years after the law was signed. That's 
an example of government not doing its job.

Christie has said that he did not want New Jersey's program to be 
easily abused and exploited as has happened in some other states, 
most notably in California. That's a fair concern, but the governor 
clearly cared little about seeing the process through.

Particularly telling about the administration's apathy were comments 
that the state had to be very careful not to run afoul of federal 
prohibitions on marijuana use, even though the feds have already said 
they would not override state laws that limit use for medical purposes.

Meanwhile, the governor, in stark contrast, has practically goaded 
the federal government into challenging the state's effort to 
legalize sports betting in direct defiance of a federal ban. So 
Christie isn't one to run in fear from the feds, especially on some 
remote notion that the federal officials would suddenly change 
direction and target New Jersey on this. The governor's always ready 
for a fight - except when he doesn't care. The federal bogeyman has 
been nothing more than a convenient excuse to keep postponing implementation.

We urge Christie to stop the games and let qualified patients ease 
some of their pain. Is that really too much to ask?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom