Medical marijuana advocates decry slow pace of program

image 01 Medical marijuana advocates decry slow pace of program

TRENTON – Advocates called today for improving the state’s medical marijuana system by making it more accessible, enabling more doctors to provide it, and avoiding unnecessary red tape.

“There’s a lot wrong that needs to be fixed,” said Jay Lassiter of the Marijuana Coalition.

Among the conditions Lassiter called for are these:

*Make medical marijuana eligible for such conditions as hepatitis and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

*Give patients the ability to cultivate their marijuana in their own gardens.

*Create a lozenge form so patients don’t have to always smoke it.

He pointed out that the law passed three years ago and called for six sites to be operating within six months.

Thus far, there’s only been one dispensary, in Montclair.

Vanessa Waltz, who was diagnosed with cancer, who is not a New Jersey patient, said marijuana has helped her eat and avoid many of the numerous side effects that are produced by conventional medicines.

She said some patients have to wait as long as seven months. “That is absurd.”

Dr. Joseph Jiminez also called for expanding the number of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ken Wolski, a registered nurse, said “the medicinal marijuana program is failing people in this state.”

The organization NORML has filed a lawsuit alleging the Health department has committed “sabotage and deliberate delay” by rewriting the compassionate care legislation through regulation. It also states that the annual reports of accountability have not been filed.

“It’s exceeding its legislative authority and that’s against the law,” Lassiter said.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora didn’t blame the Christie Administration for the slowness of the program, but rather “bureaucratic inertia” at the local level.

Still, Gusciora said, if Christie “can scare people off the beach” because of approaching storms he can provide more leadership in getting more dispensaries established.  

The advocates said there are 50,000 cancer patients and 36,000 people with HIV virus who could be helped by an increased pace of medical marijuana availability.

Gov. Chris Christie has steadfastly defended the pace of opening dispensaries, and said he is not going to let happen in New Jersey what has happened in some Western states in terms of program abuses.