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Quote: New Jersey patients, advocates criticize proposed rules on medical marijuana March 7, 2011 - nj.com
For nearly two hours Monday, dozens of patients and their advocates — some through tears, others at the top of their lungs — vented their frustration at restrictions in the state’s proposed rules for New Jersey’s nascent medical marijuana program.
The only person who testified in favor of the health department’s rules was a spokesman from Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, who disclosed the hospital had created a nonprofit group and applied to be a licensed grower and seller of state-sanctioned marijuana.
The remaining 100 minutes of the hearing in Trenton was devoted criticizing the Christie administration’s proposals.
Riding a scooter to the podium, multiple sclerosis patient Sandy Faiola of Asbury Park questioned why the state wants to limit the potency of the drug sold to 10 percent tetrahydrocannabinol. "Cannabis with THC levels of 10 percent or less may help some patient’s needs but not mine," said Faiola, who suffers from severe muscle spasms and pain.
She also said it was "excessive" to charge a $200 fee on caregivers who agree to retrieve a housebound patient’s marijuana from a dispensary.
"My primary caregiver already spends many hours a month helping me do things like travel to appointments and pick up medicine, food and other things I need. Asking her to also pay $200 for a New Jersey permit in order to help me get this medicine is wrong," Faiola said.
Crohn’s disease sufferer Stephen Cuspilich of Southampton questioned why doctors must take courses in drug addiction, recommend pot for patients only after traditional remedies have failed, and promise to wean patients off marijuana as quickly possible.
"You’re putting these flaming hoops and hurdles in front of everybody to get this medication — me and everyone else,’’ Cuspilich said. "You need to stop thinking about the business of the law and think about the intent of the law, which is compassion.’’
Lobbyist Raj Mukherji, who represents Meadowlands Hosptial and its new organization, Compassion Care Centers of America Foundation, complimented the administration for planning to gather data on how the drug helps patients and what strain and potency works best.
This "clinically-based medical model, focused on patient outcomes and data analysis, sets New Jersey apart from the other states," he said. He said the administration should not limit the number of plant strains to six because more variety would make it easier to "measure clinical outcomes."
The hearing, though required before the state can adopt new rules, might be for naught. Democrats who control the Legislature are close to overturning the health department’s regulations, and either order the administration to start over or writing the rules itself.
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