TRENTON — The terminally ill’s lack of access to medical marijuana is one of the worries of a state senator who is trying to force Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to change proposed regulations of the drug.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Middlesex, said the Republican governor’s proposed rules have several flaws, including barring dispensaries from making home deliveries, even for terminally ill patients — those defined in the regulations as having less than 12 months to live.
“”Terminally ill patients are penalized,” Scutari said.
Also, the levels of the drugs active ingredient are capped “”arbitrarily” and a rule requiring doctors who register with the program to complete training in addiction medicine is “”unnecessary,” Scutari said.
Scutari has scheduled a hearing Thursday with the Democrat-controlled Senate health committee that could lead to a rewrite of Christie’s rules. Hanging in the balance is the delivery of medical marijuana to those who suffer from chronic or terminal illnesses, which the law, signed in January, is supposed to provide.
Some key Democrats said they fear the rewrite process could significantly delay the launch of the program, which would deny people who could use medical marijuana much-needed relief.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, says Christie has already made adequate changes, with the governor upping the number of facilities to grow and distribute the marijuana to six, as the law calls for. The changes would make it easier for patients to get access to doctor-prescribed medical marijuana.
Gusciora said the amendments “”encompass parts of the compromise I had reached with the governor. They’re not perfect but it’s a starting point. I believe half a loaf is better than no loaf.”
“”Scutari has the right to do what he’s doing, but to start the regulations again from scratch will just delay seeing the program get started, ” Gusciora added.
But Scutari said this is likely the only time significant changes can be made, adding “”We only have one shot with this. We have to get it right.”
New Jersey got the ball rolling to become the 14th state offering medical marijuana when then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation in January 2010, one day before Christie took office.
The law is formally known as the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Scutari and Gusciora were leading advocates.
Christie has insisted on strict rules, saying he wants to avoid creating a “”de facto legalization of marijuana” in New Jersey.
Christie had said there are flaws with laws in some other jurisdictions, leading to situations where there is “”a head shop in every town and quack doctors writing prescriptions for people with headaches to get marijuana.”