N.J. Medical Marijuana Still Faces Hurdles
function share_this(num) {
 tit=encodeURIComponent('N.J. Medical Marijuana Still Faces Hurdles');
 site = new Array(5);
 return false;

N.J. Medical Marijuana Still Faces Hurdles
Posted by CN Staff on September 04, 2012 at 05:24:20 PT
By Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
New Jersey -- Jay Lassiter, a onetime New Jersey politics blogger who would use profanity to drive home a point, texted one word to describe his feelings about becoming one of the state's first patients eligible to smoke medical marijuana: "Wow." "Just registered. . . . Shouldn't be long now," the advocacy consultant from Cherry Hill then told his Facebook followers. Lassiter is among the more than 100 people who signed up last month as the state's long-stalled medical marijuana program advanced.
Lassiter, 40, who previously wrote for the liberal website BlueJersey, wants to obtain marijuana to stimulate an appetite ravaged by HIV/AIDS and the side effects of a cocktail of potent medications. The drug requires a prescription from a registered doctor. Whether the patient registry is "the sweet victory" Lassiter anticipates or just another step in the program's bumpy road remains to be seen. There are still hurdles and confusion as the state Department of Health takes a firm stance in checking and double-checking every detail. No marijuana dispensary has received final approval to open for business, despite years of planning and review. So far, only one - the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, Essex County - has been licensed to grow the crop. Greenleaf is expected to begin selling the drug to patients this month "assuming they meet all the criteria," Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said. But the government and dispensary seem to have a different understanding about what's left to be done before Greenleaf opens. Greenleaf chief executive officer Joe Stevens said his nonprofit company already had harvested the crop and was ready to sell as early as this week, once the state conducts a final inspection of his storefront dispensary and reviewed his security plans. State Health and Agriculture Department inspectors already have checked the plants for mold, pesticides, and other contaminants and found them to be clean, he said. "Now that patients are registering, we've been getting calls as to our opening date. . . . We're hoping for the first or second week in September," Stevens said. But O'Dowd said the inspection of the plants was only preliminary. The marijuana still needs to undergo further inspection and laboratory testing before it can be sold, she said. Plus, a daylong inspection of the dispensary would include computer and employee training and security checks. "We are asking for security to make sure [marijuana] is not diverted for inappropriate illegal purposes," O'Dowd said. Some patients have vulnerable immune systems, she said, and the Department of Health needs to ensure that the drug won't harm them. So far, more than 100 patients who have cancer, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV, or other afflictions that qualify for marijuana treatment have begun the registration process. About 8,400 people visited the state's medical marijuana website the day patients were allowed to sign up. Stevens said he had cultivated enough marijuana at his 5,000-square-foot facility to serve only 60 patients the first month. Since more than 100 people have registered, he said, he may ask patients to "limit their purchases in the beginning so that everyone who is sick can get their medication." Stevens, a former funeral director who will run the dispensary with a childhood friend, Julio Valentin Jr., a former Newark police detective, said he did not expect to have the only dispensary to open in the state. In March 2011, the Department of Health selected six nonprofit companies to grow marijuana and operate dispensaries, two for each of three geographic areas. The others have been stymied either by local opposition to their businesses or the rigorous state approval process. Until the others open, registered patients across the state are free to travel to Greenleaf. Stevens said his company initially had difficulties because "the start dates kept being pushed back" by the state, but now, "if there were differences in the past, there are none now." Compassionate Care Foundation, one of two dispensaries chosen to serve South Jersey, has been paying $25,000 a month in rent on a vacant warehouse in Egg Harbor, near Atlantic City, since April. Chief executive officer William J. Thomas said he did not anticipate that the state background checks of his board members and lenders would take eight months. He had hoped to be ready to serve patients this month, but since the investigations are continuing, he now expects to see a December opening at the earliest. "We are being held to the same standard as a casino owner," he said, noting that investigators had asked his associates, doctors, and lenders for three years' worth of IRS statements, bank accounts, mortgage information, and job history, and for personal interviews. "We have no revenue, and if it goes on any longer, we'll just have to walk away from this," Thomas said. Some lenders have dropped out because the process is so time-consuming and intrusive, he said. "We are being treated like a hot potato," he said. Thomas said he could not apply for a permit to begin growing until the investigation was complete. Cultivation then takes about three months. O'Dowd said that Department of Health conducts in-depth investigations to make sure no one associated with a dispensary has laundered money, has ties to organized crime, or has a criminal record. "This is an illegal operation in the eyes of the federal government, so we want to make sure there are no concerns that would bring into question the integrity of the investors and the board as a whole," she said. In other states, notably California, federal agents have raided dispensaries when they discovered the improper sale of medical marijuana to people who were not sick. O'Dowd said she wanted to ensure that New Jersey's program "will withstand the scrutiny of federal law enforcement." New Jersey is one of 17 states and the District of Columbia that permit medical marijuana despite the federal government's ban on cannabis sales. The Obama administration has issued memos saying it will look the other way when dispensaries follow a state's regulations. Ken Wolski, who heads the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, a patient advocacy group, said New Jersey's program was unnecessarily the strictest in the nation, depriving very sick and terminally ill patients of a drug that could help them cope. The program has focused more on bureaucratic requirements and less on the suffering of the patients, he said. Gov. Christie has said that he wants to make sure there are "sufficient legal safeguards so we don't turn into California and everybody with a headache is going out and getting high." Lassiter said that was not why he needed marijuana. "A big part of my strategy for staying well is keeping my appetite robust," he said. "The alternative is dying."Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)Author: Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff WriterPublished: September 4, 2012Copyright: 2012 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.URL: Inquirer.Letters phillynews.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help 

Comment #12 posted by The GCW on September 05, 2012 at 16:24:16 PT
Lawmakers skeptical of Colo. pot legalization—A Colorado marijuana legalization measure got a skeptical review Wednesday from lawmakers who warned of constitutional challenges if the measure passes.A panel of lawmakers helping craft the so-called "blue book" that explains November ballot measures to voters added a disclaimer to the pot proposal to explain that legalizing marijuana won't automatically produce a windfall from a new tax on the drug. First, lawmakers would be required to refer the tax to voters, and they would have to approve it. Cont.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by Hope on September 05, 2012 at 12:16:38 PT
That dismissiveness
is nothing new. We've had to endure that along with their other nasty, lying tactics to keep their beloved, destructive prohibition alive.The ugliness and the injustice of it all put my teeth on edge.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by Hope on September 05, 2012 at 12:01:20 PT
As a mature adult
I am very offended by my representatives or any other person treating me dismissively, as though I were nought but an annoying child.I am an adult. The government is not my parent or mentor. I am angry about this.Two things can hurt us and can be used to smear our cause. Ignorant violence and a stupid "Look at me, I'm partying" attitude, when we should be being very serious and seriously concerned about all this.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by FoM on September 05, 2012 at 10:37:40 PT
It isn't easy to change minds on anything. I know that problems mostly in California have turned many people off. It is based way too much on money. I read comments on articles. People don't like it. We need to think about how actions can cause effects that can hurt our cause. It has happened before and it could happen again if we don't learn from the past.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by Hope on September 05, 2012 at 09:10:18 PT
The Topic and being sick of it.
Dang right! We've all been sick of it for a long dang time. I'm so sick of it. I hate it. I have for years. I know when people start speaking up about it, they have the hope or idea that it will be done, legalized and all, in about two years. Deep down, I knew it was going to take forever. At least forty years... which seemed like forever back then. Dang. Dang. Dang. The prohibitionist desire to control and imprison and kill is so extremely powerful. Fads and trends. I hate them, too. It's been trendy to talk about changing drug policy for awhile now. That's been good. We helped make it trendy, maybe. We talked about the injustice every day, in a public forum, where anyone could see it... for years and years and years.But now it's going back to where no one wants to talk about it. Again. That's fine. My attention wasn't called to this situation because it was trendy. They... the status quo... the government... the prohibitionists are killing people and destroying families and lives. They must be stopped. I'm not violent. I'm not a killer. So I have no choice but to keep talking, discussing, reasoning, pleading, cajoling, admonishing and calling out those who are ignorant on their ignorance and cruelty. I cannot ignore the injustice. It's deadly. But I don't want to physically attack or kill anyone. I don't want to send anyone to jail. But I want them to stop. Must we have a physical war, more death, mayhem and destruction to get through to these people that they are doing the wrong thing? Do they have to be physically forced to do the right thing? Why would they kill and harm people over the use of substances like they do? Because they are sick MFs that don't even realize how sick, cruel, and dangerous they really are. That's what I think. And even though I think they are scary, nasty, and extremely dangerous. My God! I have to say something. I have to say something where I can and where I can. Even though it seems too often to be completely useless. I hope it't not. I hope it's not.I want the law changed for the sake of sanity and human decency. Popular or not... I find it so disgusting, that I have to endure until I die or the law is changed for the sake of reason and sanity.They are sick of hearing about it? They want me to stop talking about it? Change the laws! End the cruelty and injustice!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by FoM on September 05, 2012 at 06:25:45 PT
Thank you.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by FoM on September 05, 2012 at 06:24:12 PT
Another Thought
Yesterday I checked in on the drug talk on the Huffington Post Live chat. People where complaining about the topic. They are sick of it and felt more important issues needed to be discussed. I believe the anger over pot shop busts has worn thin with many folks. The anger towards Obama from the moment he was sworn in as President from mostly the right have turned people off. It's easy to stir up hate when you don't like the party and it's values.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by ekim on September 05, 2012 at 06:22:58 PT
great explanation FoM
today on Talk of the Nation (NPR National Public Radio)second hour will be on police informants broadcast schedule for time near you
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by FoM on September 05, 2012 at 04:32:44 PT
I only looked at the commercial now. I see it as making light of our issue (like it's no big thing) if the POTUS calls and asks for help from a person who is in movies and associated big time with marijuana. Now that the Gay community has gotten what they have fought so hard for we are next. Society must be desensitized before change can happen.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Hope on September 04, 2012 at 22:47:49 PT
Harold and Kumar
Why would they do that?I'm offended by this commercial. Is he laughing at our need to change the laws... again?Why the big joke?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 04, 2012 at 20:28:33 PT
Interesting Article
Obama Taps Kal Penn of 'Harold & Kumar' for Convention. Is That Wise? (+Video)September 4, 2012URL:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by ekim on September 04, 2012 at 08:21:00 PT
and the Department of Health needs to ensure that the drug won't harm them.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment