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  1. Guttz

    New Jersey's state Senate is considering defying Gov. Chris Christie over his plans to regulate medical marijuana more strictly than lawmakers say they envisioned when they voted to allow pot for some patients.

    A vote on a resolution to declare the regulations not fulfilling the lawmakers' intent and force the undoing of some of the Republican governor's proposed rules is scheduled for Monday. Sen. Steve Sweeney, president of the Democrat-controlled Senate, said it has the votes to pass.

    Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, says Christie seems to be trying to use the state's regulatory process to undermine a law he doesn't like.

    "People who didn't vote for medical marijuana are supporting this," Sweeney said. "It's about defiance of recognition of the intent of the law that was passed. Is the governor going to go back and change other laws?"

    The Senate scheduled a vote on the bill last month but scratched it when it was clear it would have failed. Since then, one Democratic senator has returned from a vacation and another has been sworn in following a special election to fill a vacancy.

    The Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, passed the measure last month. But since then, Christie and Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Princeton who was the Assembly's chief sponsor of the medical cannabis law, announced a deal to change some of the proposed regulations.

    "We think it's time to move the program forward, and we've offered a bipartisan solution to do that," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an e-mail Friday. "Let's not waste any more time; let's get the program moving."

    Christie supports medical marijuana, but says the law signed hours before he took office didn't do enough to prevent recreational smokers from taking advantage of it.

    Gusciora says the compromise with the governor is imperfect, but it will allow patients legal access to marijuana by next summer. Forcing a rewrite of the rules will delay access, he says. Patients with conditions like multiple sclerosis and glaucoma say marijuana can ease pain and nausea.

    The governor says the regulations would keep marijuana intended for patients from being used recreationally -- which he says is a problem in California and Colorado.

    But state Sen. Nicholas Scutari and other advocates say the rules are still so restrictive that patients who need marijuana might continue buying it from illegal dealers.

    "The governor's amendments to the regulations do not eliminate significant barriers to patients," said Scutari, a Democrat from Linden.

    He said he'd welcome a new compromise where Christie would make more meaningful concessions.

    In his deal with Gusciora, Christie agreed to allow six alternative treatment centers to both grow and distribute the medical marijuana. He had wanted only two growers and four distribution centers.

    He also said that terminally ill patients would not need to prove they've exhausted other treatments before being allowed marijuana.

    Both concessions from the governor brought his proposed regulations more in line with the law to allow medical marijuana -- but he didn't give in on other provisions that advocates don't like.

    "Only in New Jersey could you call following the law a compromise," Chris Goldstein, of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey.

    Among the areas where Christie wouldn't budge is a rules that hasn't been tried in any of the 13 other states that allow medical marijuana: Limiting the drug's potency.

    State Health Department officials say one study from the University of Mississippi showed that pot with limited potency can ease patients' symptoms. In that federally funded program, patients get almost 9 ounces per month of the drug. New Jersey law calls for them to get no more than 2 ounces per month. Goldstein says New Jersey patients would not get enough of the natural chemicals in marijuana to ease their conditions under the regulations.

    Christie's deal with Gusciora also took away one part of the rules that activists liked, a provision for home delivery.

    The original proposed regulations would have required all the treatment centers to offer it; the compromise version bans delivery.

    The Association of Safe Access Providers, a group of more than a dozen people who would like to run treatment centers, collaborated on a response to the proposed rules and said the fledgling business should be able to choose whether they would offer delivery -- and not have the government make the decision for them.

    December 10, 2010, 5:24PM ET


  1. CaptainTripps
    Let me see he supports medical marijuana, for a limited set of serious medical problems. Wants to control the production and distribution. Wants to insure that the medical MJ goes to those who really need it, rather than be diverted to recreational smokers. Wants to control the potency,(which will be a complicated process). This is also causing him problems with the pro medical marijuana camp.

    It would seem to me that he could solve all these problems, by instead of fighting what will be a losing battle, to instead invest his time and energy into the one thing that would help eliminate all of these problems, including the political problems with the more liberal medical marijuana groups, which would be to lobby Washington DC to reschedule marijuana as a schedule II substance. If that were to happen you can bet that marijuana would only be approved for vary serious illnesses, so no more "lower back pain" scripts . It would be produced by goverenment licensed factories that would account for every gram produced. It would be sold in pharmacies with the same kind of strict distribution standards that they have for other schedule II substances like oxycontin. And last but not least it would have potency little better than Mexican ditch weed.

    If the republicans were smart they would realize that supporting rescheduling marijuana would be a step in controlling it and making it less available to many people who are now getting it under state laws. Also that if it were made available under federal law under limited circumstances, that there would probably be a movement to repeal state medical marijuana laws. The swing votes in the middle who supported medical marijuana did so out of compassion for the very ill, not as a first step toward total legalization. These same voters would probably vote for repeal of state laws.

    For the liberals out there who keep screaming for a reclass, you might want to think again. Broadly written medical marijuana laws are a form of tollerance toward marijuana in general. The big obstical to legalization is the "sending of the wrong message" that marijuana use is "OK". That is why decriminalization laws seem to be more popular with the voters. They still provide for fines and confiscation of any marijuana found. Reducing penalites is about making laws where the law is not more harmful to the user than the actual substance is. It also is presented as a way to reduce enforcement costs and focus resourses into going after the big dealers, making the marijuana less available for "abuse". Medical marijuana sends the message that marijuana, like oxycodone, or valium or ritilan is ok to use for medical purposes when prescribed by a doctor. It is the message that is important to many of the moralist, who know deep down that they can not stop marijuana use. Broadly written state medical marijuana laws, could end up being America's answer to the "coffeeshop". The moralist get to win the propaganda war, with the offical policy of recreational marijuana being a "bad thing" and then look the other way when adults get scripts for hangnails.
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