NEWS & VIEWS

Medical Marijuana in New Jersey

Has its time finally come for the Garden State?

By Michael Pritchard
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Dec. 15, 2010

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Ocean City dermatologist Steven Fenichel was just a young intern in Toronto in the 1970s when he would have an experience with a patient that would impact him to this day, at the age of 63.

Then in oncology, he had a patient with testicular cancer. The cancer was treatable, but at a severe price to the patient.

“That’s a curable form of cancer if you go through the regimen and the chemotherapy treatments,” Fenichel tells Atlantic City Weekly. “But this patient reacted very violently to the treatment. He was vomiting and retching to the point that he was ripping up his insides. He then refused the chemo treatment.”

But in the ’70s, as today, another less legal treatment was out there, and somehow, the patient did manage to find a drug that was thought of as recreational — marijuana.

However the substance was acquired, Fenichel could not argue with the results.

“It had a very dramatic effect on this patient,” he says. “Eventually, it calmed down his reactions to the point that he could stand the chemo. This young man had been prescribed all types of anti-nausea drugs and treatments. When he finally could take the chemo treatment, the doctors said, ‘Well, the drugs must have worked.’ He said, ‘Not your drugs. They didn’t work at all.’”

Fenichel may not have known it at the time, but this and observations of other patients — especially one patient with Multiple Sclerosis, who dramatically gained muscle control when using marijuana — through the years would make him a proponent of medical marijuana and one of many voices pushing the state to stop delaying and finally make New Jersey the 14th state in the nation to offer the treatment.

The issue came to a head this week when the New Jersey State Senate voted to overturn rules recently proposed by Gov. Chris Christie to govern the growing and sale of medical marijuana.

Former Gov. Jon Corzine actually signed a medical marijuana bill in New Jersey into law shortly before leaving office, but implementation has been delayed as the Christie administration reviewed regulations.

Christie proposed the new rules earlier this month in a compromise with Democratic majority leaders that caught some legislators off guard. The amended rules immediately set off a wave of controversy. The Senate vote gives the administration 30 days to further amend the rules.

At the center of the controversy are proposed rules to limit the amount of THC, or the marijuana’s potency, how and when marijuana can be prescribed, and the number of cultivation and distribution centers that will be allowed.

Many advocates felt Christie’s restrictions would actually stop patients from getting the treatment they need. They found an ally in Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Linden), who sponsored the recent measure to have the rules reworked.

“The administration has tried painstakingly to make the medical marijuana regulations as prohibitive as possible for patients,” said Scutari. “It’s time the governor and his administration stopped creating unnecessary delays to our medical marijuana program and put forward regulations that comply with the law, so we can finally get relief to the sick and dying patients who so desperately need it.”

Christie, however, pushed for the rules out of fears that the medical marijuana law would be subverted by those looking to use the drug for recreational purposes.

“Working together, we have come to an agreement that will prevent further delay to patients who need relief from the symptoms of debilitating illnesses,” Christie said in a statement. “At the same time, we are protecting the interests of all residents of the state of New Jersey by preventing some of the abuses that we have seen in other states.”

States such as California have had major problems with their medical marijuana laws, with widespread reports of abuse.

Christie has labeled the Senate measure as playing “politics” with a major health issue. Under the governor’s proposed regulations, six regional centers — two each in the north, central and southern parts of the state — would be authorized to grow and distribute marijuana.

But part of the debate is clearly the stigma surrounding the use of marijuana. Even though many patients being treated for pain and nausea, and quite often terminally ill patients, are regularly prescribed narcotics and painkillers that are often also abused, marijuana seems to carry a special social nervousness.

Currently, the rules would limit the THC content to 10 percent (THC levels in illegally sold marijuana can vary greatly, but is often stronger than 10 percent), which advocates say is not strong enough to help patients. Christie’s new proposals did not raise that level.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Jonathan said... on Dec 15, 2010 at 06:47PM

“Excellent article!! Very informative and compelling. How can politicians, in conscience, play God with sick people who may have only a few days, months or years left?? Mother Earth provided the plant that could ease suffering. Pharmaceuticals, chemical-manmade products, have a place but it more damage is done to the human body and psyche with these medicines and if Nature has provided a weed that can be grown in the back yard that will make a person's life bearable how is there an issue? Compassion not confrontation is what people need.”

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2. Jonathan said... on Dec 15, 2010 at 06:47PM

“Excellent article!! Very informative and compelling. How can politicians, in conscience, play God with sick people who may have only a few days, months or years left?? Mother Earth provided the plant that could ease suffering. Pharmaceuticals, chemical-manmade products, have a place but it more damage is done to the human body and psyche with these medicines and if Nature has provided a weed that can be grown in the back yard that will make a person's life bearable how is there an issue? Compassion not confrontation is what people need.”

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3. Piers said... on Dec 16, 2010 at 01:41PM

“Great, now what NJ? Will patients have to wait until 2012 to be able to get medical marijuana, something that is available in 13 other states already? C'mon Christie, 6-8 places for the entire state? This is the Garden State you know. Let's get farmers hurt by the economy growing marijuana asap. Let's work this out before more patients suffering from an assortment of ailments aren't able to get what they need in a timely manner. PS: Speaking of the economy, this is a no-brainer. Legalize it. Lift the prohibition like they did with alcohol and say bye-bye to deficit and pot dealers/criminals.”

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4. Jim said... on Dec 16, 2010 at 05:12PM

“MMJ in New Jersey is certainly a step in the right direction, kudos Garden State!”

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5. NJ Gov is weak said... on Dec 16, 2010 at 06:17PM

“unbelievable. 6-8 centers for a state that would be 150 to actually meet it's needs when the natural medicine is actually available. Christie, you are pathetic. This has been delayed for 2 years already and will be another year before 6-8 dispensaries are available to serve 8 million people.. PATHETIC as is almost all other governmental run stuff in this state. PATHETIC.”

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6. john halka said... on Dec 17, 2010 at 12:21PM

“chris christie is a ass. i suffer from severe nerve damage and need my cannabis as a tool to help deal with the pain.i cant wait for him to run for office so i can vote against this crule man and hopefully get rid of this imbacil. His take from the poor and don"t tax the rich attitude shows where this devil man is coming from.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Dec 18, 2010 at 05:23PM

“During the republican nominating campaign between Christie and Steve Lonegan, Christie was against medical MJ and Lonegan was in favor of the govt getting out of the way of a doctor and his patient. Lonegan favored the permission to use medical Marijuana”

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8. Charles Kwiatkowski said... on Dec 18, 2010 at 09:00PM

“As an MS patient for 14 years and medical marijuana user of the past 8 I am fortunate to have turned back to Nature's Good-Will. Had I not I would not have 3 awesome daughters. As a male with sever spinal troubles and every doctor and their mother tryin to shove Opiates down my throat, none of them would ever allow me to concieve children as a male. It seems that because of the opiates found in Oxy Contin, Percocet, Diazapam all male stamina when it comes to reproducing. So I am blessed to have a loving wife and 3 awesome daughters to share life with.

Amen to medical marijuana”

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9. Rose G. said... on Jan 1, 2011 at 09:12PM

“I have many chronic illnesses. Nauseau, pain, mental illness., epilepsy..a horrible way to live. I promote the marijuana legalization at all costs. I'm faced with going on percoset for my pain, and risking the interactions with the other 17 meds I take a day (many which can be alleviated with MM), or buying it illegally, and feeling less pain, nausea free, and seizure free and perhaps getting off some of my medications. Christie should be afflicted with 1/2 of what I have to deal with on a daily basis, or worst cancer!”

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10. nicklas said... on Jan 17, 2011 at 01:53PM

“Cristie thinks these "State Growers", will all get it right growing dirt weed(low THC), but in effect he will help the BLACK MARKET to move real healthy, POTENT MJ!
Cristie is a Fools -Fool! He totally disgusts me, as a NJ native, but now in the Promised Land!(CALI!)”

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11. stephen cuspilich said... on Dec 20, 2012 at 12:11PM

“There is so much that is wrong with this law and the regulations that go along with it that I feel it was all done to discourage people from registering for the program as we are now asked to pay top dollar $110 for a quarter of meds that would be $50 on the street and we have to pay taxes on top of it I guess this is the price we pay when some people in Trenton didn't like the law to begin with so they make it as hard as they can for people of the state to benefit from it”

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12. stephen cuspilich said... on Dec 20, 2012 at 12:11PM

“There is so much that is wrong with this law and the regulations that go along with it that I feel it was all done to discourage people from registering for the program as we are now asked to pay top dollar $110 for a quarter of meds that would be $50 on the street and we have to pay taxes on top of it I guess this is the price we pay when some people in Trenton didn't like the law to begin with so they make it as hard as they can for people of the state to benefit from it”

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