Medical Marijuana Update

Since 1996, sixteen states and Washington DC have signed state legislation to legalize the use of medical marijuana. Gov. Chris Christie signed the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" in 2010. Although federal law currently prohibits the use of marijuana, compliance with this act does not place New Jersey in violation with the federal law. The law permits an approved client to receive two ounces of marijuana per month.

Research has indicated that there may be beneficial use for medical marijuana in the treatment of certain debilitating diseases in which conventional medical interventions have not proven effective. Individuals with the following conditions may be evaluated for enrollment: epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, glaucoma, chronic pain, severe nausea/vomiting/cachexia associated with HIV and cancer treatments, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and irritable bowel disease. A terminal patient is one whose life expectancy is less than 12 months.

Rigorous guidelines have been established as to who can participate in this program. Patients and caregivers will need to have a criminal background check and submit to fingerprinting. Approved patients would need to register with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Physicians will be given specific instructions for prescribing the medical marijuana.

The DHSS will be licensing six non-profit organizations to function as Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC). Two centers would be located in the Northern, Central, and Southern regions of the state. Participating clients will be required to specify which treatment center they will be using. Clients will only be permitted to register at one ATC. Currently, there are no active ATCs in New Jersey. The application process has proven very challenging.

Mary O'Dowd, Commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Health and Senior Services, has stated that the state will be posting a list of the participating physicians in the program. She has expressed concern in regards to the establishment of "secure systems that will be needed to grow, package, test, inspect, transport, dispense, and dispose of a substance that is considered a Schedule 1 drug under federal law."

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