Trenton, NJ: Senate lawmakers voted 22 to 16 this week in favor of a concurrent resolution forcing the Department of Health and Senior Services to revise draft regulations regarding the implementation of the New Jersey Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. Assembly lawmakers had previously approved the resolution in November.
In accordance with the resolution, the Department has 30 days to rewrite the regulations. "Failure to publish proposed rules that are consistent with the intent of the legislature may result in the legislature passing a concurrent resolution to prohibit those proposed rules from taking effect in whole or in part," the resolutions states.
Lawmakers, patients, and reform activists took issue with several aspects of the draft regulations, which they argued violated the intent of New Jersey’s yet-to-be implemented medical marijuana law. These included provisions requiring qualifying patients to establish that their diagnosed condition is resistant to all other conventional therapies; capping the number of state-licensed medical cannabis producers to no more than two; restricting the varieties of marijuana available to patients to six strains, limiting the plant’s THC content to no more than ten percent; prohibiting the dissemination of any edible medical cannabis product; and mandating that doctors who authorize their patients to use marijuana "make reasonable efforts" at least every three months to wean them off the substance.
Earlier this month Republican Gov. Chris Christie — who had previously voiced disapproval of the state’s nascent medical cannabis law — agreed to allow for the establishment of six licensed facilities to produce and dispense marijuana to authorized patients. Governor Christie also agreed to loosen the eligibility requirements for specific patients. Nevertheless, this week’s Senate vote indicates that lawmakers will demand the administration to make further concessions before law is ultimately implemented.
Chris Goldstein of New Jersey NORML and the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey said: "[We are] pleased that the New Jersey Legislature heard the concerns of severely ill residents in the continued fight for fair and legal access to marijuana. The vote today sends a strong message to the Department of Health and Senior Services as well as Governor Christie that officials need to craft more reasonable rules for the medical cannabis program. This can only be accomplished by engaging in a transparent process that involves patients and advocates."
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