Trenton, NJ: Medical cannabis advocates are criticizing draft regulations circulated by the Department of Health that seek to implement the New Jersey Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. Advocates, including the act's chief legislative sponsor, believe that the proposed measures are unduly restrictive and are not responsive to patients needs.
The proposed regulations call for the state to begin overseeing the distribution of medical marijuana to state-authorized patients by July 2011. The manufacturing of medical cannabis would be limited to two licensed facilities. The proposed rules also restrict the percentage to THC that may be present in the plant to no more than ten percent, and limit the varieties of cannabis that may be produced to no more than three strains.
Four additional state licensed facilities would be permitted to dispense cannabis.
Patients would be authorized to possess no more than two ounces of cannabis per month, and would not be permitted to grow their own marijuana or share it with other registered patients.
Patients who possess unauthorized amounts or strains of marijuana will still be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution under the law.
Democratic Senator Nick Scutari, who sponsored the Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act, said that the regulations significantly alter state law, which mandate a total of six marijuana cultivation and distribution centers to be licensed throughout the state.
Chris Goldstein of NORML New Jersey and the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey also criticized the draft regulations. "Rather than create a reasonable set of regulations, the Christie Administration is playing politics with the lives of New Jersey's most severely ill residents," he said in a prepared statement. "Instead of opening a pathway to safe marijuana access these draft regulations only create more barriers."
Health regulators have 60 days to review the regulations and accept public comment.
According to the Department of Health's website, patients may begin applying in November to participate in the program.
Speaking at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Republican Gov. Chris Christie said that he "would not have signed the law," which was approved by former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.
Full text of the draft rules is available here: http://www.nj.gov/health/draft_mm.pdf.