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Hydroponderance: NJ’s medical marijuana rules riling supporters

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

It took New Jersey 4737 years to get hip to medical marijuana (OK, the state hasn’t been around THAT long), but concern over the proposed guidelines is growing faster than the weed itself. To be approved for legal use of cannabis — first documented in China in 2727 BC — a patient must obtain a permit, for $200.

If you’re too sick or infirm to get to one of only a half-dozen pot shops in the state, you can get a caretaker to be your bag man — for an additional $200. Or you can buy a vaporizer (Guess the cost? Yep, a pair of Benjamins).

Meantime, the rules limit the number of growers in New Jersey to six — two each in North, Central and South Jersey. Each can have satellite locations but only within their geographic designation.

All must be non-profit agencies who bid on the respective contracts.

Designated dispensaries cannot grow more than three strains each. And they can sell only dried buds, lozenges, or ointments — no cakes, brownies, cookies or other yummy treats depicted on “Weeds.”

But here comes the buzz kill:

The regs limit the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the drug that makes Mary Jane dance, to 10 percent.

Other jurisdictions with medical marijuana programs kick it up to 18 percent.

No one is certain where the figure came from.

“They’re treating this like radiation instead of like medicine,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, told The New Jersey Law Journal. “There is no basis in medicine for that restriction.”

DHSS Commissioner Poonam Alaigh said the regulations were drafted after months of consultations with scientists, physicians, academics, marijuana-use advocates and administrators of medical-marijuana programs in 13 other states and the District of Columbia.

“We have designed a clinically sound program that is unique to New Jersey,” she told the Law Journal. “It is a physician-driven program that provides access to qualified patients for whom conventional treatment has failed and who may benefit from medicinal marijuana as a symptom reliever.”

Although the program was set to launch in July, Gov. Chris Christie gave regulators three extra months to produce the rules.

“You can’t change a statute through the regulatory process,” Scutari told the Law Journal, adding that he’s ready to go to court to fight the changes.


HOW DO I QUALIFY FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA?

You must have:
(1) epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel syndrome and any other terminal illness in which you’re expected to have fewer than 12 months to live;
(2) chronic pain from your medical regiment;
(3) an on-going relationship with your primary caregiver, who must undergo an extensive criminal and professional background check;
(4) your application reviewed by state health officials.


Registration begins next month. Those accepted will get photo ID cards.

Applications will be available from the state next week for patients, cultivators and dispensaries.

Cultivation and processing is expect to begin in March or April, with the first batch scheduled for sale by next summer.

Dispensary applicants must deposit $20,000 with the state, with $18,000 being returned if the bid is unsuccessful. The centers would also pay annual renewal fees of $20,000.

If needed, they could deliver the Chronic to patients unable to travel, although they would have to have the marijuana and patients’ money locked in separate boxes inside the delivery vehicles.

No one said anything about police escorts.

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