Jersey's New Medical Marijuana Law Still Hazy

By Brian Thompson
|  Friday, Jun 4, 2010  |  Updated 4:30 PM EDT
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Jersey's New Medical Marijuana Law Still Hazy

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Various types of marijuana are on display at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

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So far it's pass, pass, puff.

New Jersey's "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" was signed into law back in January, but cannot take effect until the Department of Health and Senior Services actually draws up the rules and regulations that will run the program.

And Governor Chris Christie's recent request to the Legislature for a six month to one year delay is not going over well with patients and advocates who helped shape the bill.

"We expect the law to be followed we expect the time line to be followed," said advocate Chris Goldstein, of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana -- New Jersey.

The original time line would have the proposed rules drawn up by August 1st, and patients lighting up by this Fall.

But that's not enough time for the Christie Administration.

"We are now going to become a distributor of a controlled substance," said Christie's Press Secretary Mike Drewniak in explaining why the Governor, who supports the law, wants more time.

"It's a complex matter," Drewniak said, adding: "Do you want it done now or do you want it done right?"

Multiple-sclerosis sufferer Sandy Faiola of Asbury Park, N.J., wants it now.

"I don't want to wait anymore," said Faiola who was at a protest on the Statehouse steps in Trenton, and she currently takes morphine four times a day.

"I miss hours of time just because I sat there watching TV before I [even] know it," Faiola said of her life on morphine. "I sleep about 14 hours a day due to it."

But DHSS spokeswoman Donna Leusner said this is "pioneering territory" for New Jersey, specifically because the act's authors wrote what they believe is the most tightly controlled medical marijuana law in  the nation.

The rules and regulations to be drawn up by her department will cover everything from getting the seed for planting to distribution to education to doctors.

"[We] want to get the best practices and avoid pitfalls," said Leusner, who noted that "it is a high priority."

But "it is not rocket science," countered Peter Rosenfeld of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana -- New Jersey.  "Do not let perfection be the enemy of the good when people are suffering."

NORML-NJ, a marijuana advocacy group, said it is ready to sue if the proposed rule isn't enacted by August 1st.

"Absolutely, absolutely," said NORML Executive Director Anne Davis.  "It's a law ... and we have a legal team ready to go."

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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