The New Jersey medical-marijuana plan, passed almost two years ago, has yet to be implemented. The program, administered by the Department of Health and Senior Services, has not registered even a single patient. The proposed regulations haven't been finalized. The DHSS has not provided a published list of the registered physicians. Even the six state-selected alternative treatment centers, which will grow and dispense the medical marijuana, have not been confirmed.
The DHSS will not even explain its inertia. Phone calls and emails go unreturned. It is unclear if the lack of openness and activity is due to avarice, apathy or a directive from Gov. Chris Christie to go slow. The apparent inadequacy of the DHSS may come down to a lack of allocation of resources for the task at hand and/or the department's resistance to seeking qualified assistance from outside sources.
On behalf of chronically ill individuals, some of whom are my patients, I urge as strongly as possible for the Christie administration to implement the law at once. As a physician who has registered with the plan, and the medical caregiver to a number of patients who would qualify and benefit from medicinal cannabis, I am appalled by the way the administration has treated this compassionate legislation.
My typical qualifying patient is a middle-aged multiple sclerosis patient. Many do not have health-insurance coverage. Most tell me that cannabis effectively relieves their neurologic pain and related symptoms.
In my own medical practice, the real villains are: tobacco, which is extremely addictive and has severe long-term health consequences; alcohol, with its damaging consequences to society and a constellation of potential physical effects; and the opiates, both "street" and prescriptive medications, with their highly addictive properties and a withdrawal syndrome so severe that addicts spend hundreds of dollars a day to keep the monkey on their backs.
Cannabis prohibition has proven a monumental failure. The first to benefit by the inevitable end of cannabis prohibition should be the deserving ill. Let's start by finally implementing the N.J. medical-marijuana plan.
DR. JEFFREY POLLACK