New Jersey Senate Democrats are pushing ahead with a challenge to the Christie administration's rules for the state's new medical marijuana program, despite a supposedly bipartisan compromise the governor announced earlier this month.
Democrats are unhappy with regulations to implement the program, saying it falls short of a law already described as the most restrictive in the country. The rules would limit the potency of marijuana, among other specifications contrary to the law signed in January just before Mr. Christie took office.
In putting his own stamp on the program, Mr. Christie says he is trying to make sure New Jersey doesn't become another California or Colorado, where critics say it is too easy for healthy people to buy pot intended for those with medical problems.
On Dec. 3, Gov. Chris Christie held a news conference with the program's top supporter in the Assembly, Democrat Reed Gusciora, saying they had agreed to change some, but not all, of the regulations. For example, Mr. Christie said he was comfortable with allowing six locations as outlined in the law to grow and dispense pot, instead of two growers and four dispensaries.
"This is a way to get the program up and running in the soonest amount of time as possible," Mr. Gusciora said at the time. "The program can only grow in the future."
But the announcement took many Democrats by surprise, and it was unclear what power Mr. Gusciora had to make a deal. The Assembly already passed a resolution to repeal the regulations, and the Senate plans to vote on Monday. The administration would have 30 days to rewrite the rules.
Charles Kwiatkowski, 39 years old, of Hazlet said he has multiple sclerosis and uses marijuana to replace 41 pills that are either ineffective or have debilitating or embarrassing side effects. He said the proposed regulations would make it difficult for his doctor to recommend the drug, and the diminished potency would lead people to make illegal purchases.
"Patients would still have an ability to buy something better on the street, and still have to take those risks," he said.
A spokesman for the Senate Democrats, Derek Roseman, left the door open for further compromise but said some lawmakers still had significant concerns with certain of Mr. Christie's changes, such as taking away home delivery of the drug. Supporters say that is key to making sure everyone has access.
Mr. Roseman said it was still possible to come to an agreement in time to make the drug available in the summer.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
From The Wall Street Journal:
Posted by BA Haller at 8:05 PM