Marijuana for Patients Remains Off-Limits
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Marijuana for Patients Remains Off-Limits
Posted by CN Staff on July 17, 2011 at 20:00:02 PT
By Richard Perez-Pena
Source: New York Times
New Jersey -- Irvina Booker makes a most unlikely criminal. She lives in constant pain, disabled by multiple sclerosis and arthritis, a grandmother whose limited mobility depends on her walker, her daughter and marijuana. “I never smoked it before I got sick, and I don’t smoke it for fun,” said Ms. Booker, 59, who lives in Englewood, N.J. She would not divulge how she obtains her marijuana, but said, “I don’t want to be sneaking around, afraid someone is going to get arrested getting it for me.”
Like many people who contend that marijuana eases pain and appetite loss from serious diseases, Ms. Booker cheered in January 2010, when New Jersey legalized its use in cases like hers. But a year and a half later, there is still no state-sanctioned marijuana available for patients, and none being grown, and there is no sign of when there might be. In the last few months, officials in New Jersey, as well as several other states, have said that mixed signals from the Obama administration have left them unsure whether their medical marijuana programs could draw federal prosecution of the people involved, including state employees. A Justice Department memorandum issued late last month left unanswered questions, and Gov. Chris Christie has not said how he will proceed. But medical marijuana advocates say that in New Jersey, at least, the state law is stringent enough not to run afoul of federal policy, and that the governor’s true goal has been to block the program. “You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out,” said State Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, a Democrat. “He’s used every tactic he can to delay and deny.” The governor, a Republican, and his aides have insisted that every delay has been a genuine attempt to make the program work properly. “In light of the Obama administration’s memorandum, the governor’s office is performing its due diligence to ensure implementation of the program is not in conflict with federal law and does not put state employees charged with directing the program at risk,” Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Mr. Christie, said. On Thursday, Mr. Scutari — who is a local prosecutor — and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the law’s primary sponsors, met with the governor’s legal advisers. “They told us they don’t have their minds made up; that they want our input,” Mr. Scutari said. But for the first time, he said, “the possibility of just scrapping the program” came up, though only in passing. Aides to the governor denied that there was any discussion of abandoning the program. The state has named six nonprofit organizations to grow and dispense marijuana. The would-be growers say that if they were given the go-ahead, it would take at least four months to get up and running. “A lot of people ask when, how, if we’re really going to open, and we can’t tell them anything,” said Ida Umanskaya, a director of Greenleaf Compassion Center, which plans to operate in Montclair. Another operator, Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation, which would be based in New Brunswick, “remains cautiously hopeful,” said Raj Mukherji, a spokesman for the group. Though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, in 2009 David W. Ogden, the deputy attorney general at the time, sent a memo to federal prosecutors across the country saying that they should not focus “on individuals who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” But the memo came with caveats, stressing the Justice Department’s commitment to prosecute commercial marijuana growers and traffickers who feed the illegal market but hide behind “claims of compliance with state or local law.” In March of this year, federal agents raided marijuana dispensaries in Montana, and some states wondered about the extent of Justice Department tolerance. Including New Jersey, 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing medical use of marijuana. Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington, a Democrat, vetoed proposed changes to the state’s marijuana program, which she said could expose state workers to prosecution. Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent, suspended plans to license marijuana dispensaries. Arizona sued the federal government. On June 29, Deputy Attorney General James Cole sent a memo to prosecutors, citing “an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes.” The 2009 memo, he wrote, was never meant to shield operations with “revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.” He said nothing about the legal status of state employees. Mr. Christie has not said whether Mr. Cole’s memo allayed his concerns. Jessica Smith, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to discuss New Jersey, saying, “We do not speculate on what action we might or might not take in any situation.” Medical marijuana advocates note that as a former federal prosecutor himself, Mr. Christie is well aware of that policy, and that the memo suggests that New Jersey would be in the clear because its program would involve relatively small, nonprofit operations. “To us the Justice Department memo was good news for New Jersey,” said Meagan Glaser, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance. New Jersey’s law was designed to be the strictest in the country, in reaction to programs in California and Colorado that were widely seen as too expansive, and it specified that only six centers would be licensed. It limited marijuana to use for a specific list of severe conditions like cancer, H.I.V. and Lou Gehrig’s disease, or when the patient has less than a year to live. The Legislature passed the bill despite opposition by Mr. Christie, then the governor-elect. Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed it into law on his last day as governor. Mr. Christie sought to designate Rutgers University as the sole grower and hospitals as the sole dispensers, but the university and the hospitals declined to take part. The governor then asked the Legislature to postpone the start of the program, and it did. Late last year, the Christie administration proposed regulations limiting the program further. Some were later dropped, but the rules that were adopted limit the strength of the marijuana, prohibit home delivery, ban edible forms of the drug and require patients to show that they have exhausted conventional treatments. The wait has been frustrating to patients like Sandy Fiola, of Asbury Park, who has multiple sclerosis and sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. She said no one questioned her right to take far more dangerous painkillers, like oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl. “Using marijuana lets me cut way back on steroids and morphine, it works better, and I’m more lucid,” Ms. Fiola, 54, said. “God, I hope they do this thing. It’s been so long already.” A version of this article appeared in print on July 18, 2011, on page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: Marijuana For Patients Remains Off-Limits.Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Richard Perez-PenaPublished: July 18, 2011Copyright: 2011 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on July 19, 2011 at 16:33:48 PT
Chris Christie lifts suspension of NJ medical ...
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Comment #5 posted by George Servantes on July 19, 2011 at 12:57:04 PT:
christie lacks compassion
delaying medicine to other fellow suffering humans, i cannot believe this man is a governor. 
here in maine we have republican governor who is pro medical cannabis. our former democrat governor was delaying and making it difficult for patients to get their meds, but our new governor is different even though he's republican.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 19, 2011 at 10:03:37 PT
AP: NJ Gov To Make Medical Pot Announcement
July 19, 2011Trenton, N.J. -- One of the main sponsors of New Jersey's delayed medical marijuana law says he expects Gov. Chris Christie to implement the law.Details may become known on Tuesday.Sen. Nicolas Scutari says Christie's office invited him to a 2 p.m. new conference and told him the topic is medical marijuana.The senator says the governor's office would not give him specifics. But Scutari says he wouldn't expect to be invited if the governor planned to further delay the program.Gov. Jon Corzine legalized medical marijuana before he left office last year. However, Christie has delayed implementation because of regulatory details.The governor's office declined to publically comment on the topic of the news conference.Copyright: 2011 The Associated Press
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on July 18, 2011 at 10:40:52 PT
NJ Gov Reviewing Warning Letter on Medical Pot
July 18, 2011Trenton, N.J. -- Gov. Chris Christie says he'll make a decision soon on whether to implement a law that legalizes marijuana for medical use in New Jersey.A memo released June 30 by the U.S. Justice Department warned that marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers in states with medical marijuana laws could face prosecution for violating federal drug and money-laundering laws.Christie says he's still seeking advice from his attorneys about what to do. He says he'll make a decision in "the real near future," but didn't give a firm date.Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of marijuana, with programs in various phases of development.New Jersey adopted a law to allow medical marijuana in January 2010, just before Christie took office.Copyright: 2011 Associated PressURL:
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Comment #2 posted by ekim on July 18, 2011 at 09:01:51 PT
DEA stands in the way of Jobs
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on July 18, 2011 at 08:45:53 PT
A message from Bill Piper:
 Tell the DEA: Stop the lies and scare tactics. Put science before politics.
Email the DEA 
 Dear jerry,Last week the DEA issued a ludicrously false statement claiming that marijuana "has no accepted medical use in the United States and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision."Since when is law enforcement qualified to issue medical opinions? What's worse, the DEA's stance makes them an obstacle to sound scientific research.Write to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart and demand that anti-drug ideology not stand in the way of sound science.The DEA’s statement came in response to a citizen petition to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I narcotics, the category of drugs associated with the harshest criminal penalties. Confronted with a rational call for change from reformers like you, the DEA chose to issue blatant lies -- ignoring decades of scientific research, doctors’ expertise, public opinion and the shifting political tide of the nation.Do they really think anyone is still buying that nonsense? Let’s show the DEA that they can no longer get away with that type of dishonesty. Let’s demand that the federal government make drug policies based in sanity, not fear and hysteria.Like you, I’m frustrated that the DEA is still peddling absurd scare tactics. But the fact that they’re ramping up the hysteria shows me that we are gaining ground. Medical marijuana is already allowed in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and it’s likely that in the next election one or more states will vote on making marijuana legal. You’re making a difference, and our opponents are digging in.Let's show the DEA that we won’t stand for the status quo any longer. Tell Michele Leonhart to stop prioritizing outdated drug war ideology over hard evidence.Sincerely,Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance 
 Let’s show DEA that they can no longer get away with this sort of nonsense. Let’s demand that the federal government make drug policies based in sanity, not fear and hysteria.
 You have received this email because runruff is a member of the Drug Policy Alliance.
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