NJ Doctors Hardly Rushing to Sign up for Medical Marijuana Registry

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    On the opening day of the registry, just nine doctors applied.

    On its first day Tuesday, seventeen New Jersey doctors had logged onto a state Website in order to get on the state's registry to 'prescribe' medical marijuana to their patients.

    "At this time, patient registration is not active," the Department of Health and Senior Services Website advises in red lettering.

    Physicians will first have to be approved by the DHSS.

    Once patients are allowed to register, they must be certified by their doctors as having a "debilitating medical condition" as specified in the law before they will be given an ID card that allows them to buy marijuana from one of the Alternative Treatment Centers the state will also authorize.

    That  medical marijuana is not expected to be available until late spring at the earliest.

    One physician who hopes to get on the registry is Dr. Jeffrey Miskoff, who is part of a large pulmonary medicine practice in Monmouth County.

    Although he did not know the registry was opened on Tuesday, he told NBCNewYork "I do plan to register."

    Dr. Miskoff estimated he has "about two dozen" patients that he would recommend for medical marijuana.

    He said his practice with seven other doctors (whom he has not surveyed in detail on whether they would 'prescribe' it) has thousands and thousands of patients, mostly suffering from pulmonary chronic obstructive diseases, which includes lung cancer.

    But Dr. Miskoff made it clear he has no plans to recommend it to just anyone who walks in the door complaining of pain.

    "I didn't work this hard to throw it all away," Miskoff said.

    A spokeswoman for DHSS, Donna Leusner, said in an email that there is no limit on the number of doctors who can sign up for the registry.

    But advocates for the new law are upset with a requirement in the rules that physicians must not only "certify they have completed medical education in Addiction Medicine and Pain Management within the past two years," but they also "must include the course title that covers these two areas, or they will be rejected from the registry."

    In response, DHSS spokeswoman Leusner responded "It is reasonable to require physicians to counsel patients on the addiction potential of marijuana" which "...like other drugs that affect the central nervous system, has the potential to cause a patient to become addicted."

    Ken Wolski, Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, responded "Marijuana is approximately as addictive as caffeine. Physicians should not be required to take a course in addiction medicine for recommending a substance with documented low addiction potential."

    Wolski was also upset with a requirement that the physician attest 'I have provided education for the patient on the lack of scientific consensus for the use of medical marijuana.'

    "This is a blatantly political statement, at odds with the law itself, and shows open hostility to the use of marijuana as medicine," Wolski said.

    But Leusner responded "Physicians should always talk about the side effects of any drug with their patients."

    Even as advocates and the state argue over the details, still unknown is whether the Legislature will invoke a little-used constitutional option to declare all of the rules put out by DHSS to be in violation of the law it passed last January.

    State Senator Nicholas Scutari(D-Union), a co-sponsor of the medical marijuana law, said recently he would seek to overturn the rules as published so far, but if the Legislature did act, it would simply hand any rewrite back to DHSS, allowing the agency to come up with a new set of rules that still might not make advocates happy.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY