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On June 7, 2013, the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey (CMMNJ) held a press conference at the New Jersey State House in Trenton, NJ demanding Governor Chris Christie stop playing politics with the voter-approved medical marijuana law in the state.
The press conference, spearheaded by political strategist Jay Lassiter, highlighted the hardships specifically created by Christie’s seemingly moral opposition to medical marijuana.
Additionally, it was the ten-year anniversary of the death of activist and Multiple Sclerosis patient Cheryl Miller. Miller’s widower is a vocal advocate for pushing Christie to allow the law to be implemented the way voters intended, as he believes it is his duty to his wife’s legacy.
Reporters were brought to tears when Meghan Wilson described how marijuana has created a quality of life for her two-year-old daughter, Vivian, who suffers from Dravet’s syndrome, a more severe form of childhood epilepsy.
Christie’s regulations have made it impossible for her to alleviate her child’s pain and she is being forced to watch her daughter painfully seizure up to fifteen times a day, all the while knowing medical marijuana has and will help but having no access.
“This is absolutely a crisis,” Lassiter said.
In January 2010, then-Governor John Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act into law. The law was written to create safe access for all patients in New Jersey seeking a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medications for a variety of ailments.
However, when Governor Chris Christie came into office, he delayed the implementation of the law pending review and government-generated regulations to the law to ensure it was not being “abused” the way in which he has stated he perceives medical marijuana laws have been abused in states such as California and Colorado.
By regulating the voter-approved law, Christie, who is rumored to be already campaigning for a 2016 Presidential run, has created insurmountable barriers to safe access for patients throughout the state.
“[What has happened in other medical states is] not going to happen in New Jersey. If they have to go through more regulatory hoops to make sure only the truly sick and suffering get this, then that is what we are going to do,” Christie said.
Under New Jersey law, six licensed dispensaries were to be opened throughout the state, so far only one is open and its offerings are limited to three marijuana strains and the notable absence of alternative delivery methods such as non-psychoactive topical salves, tinctures, high-CBD strains and edibles.
Another dispensary is scheduled to open in Egg Harbor in September, but three years after the law was passed there is still not safe or reliable access in New Jersey.
Additionally, because there is only one dispensary in the state open two days a week, patients are forced to drive during those days to the dispensary, where they are required to pay exclusively in cash. Of the 560 patients registered for the medical marijuana program, only about 114 have had access to the dispensary, the rest sit on a waiting list. Furthermore, only a small handful of conditions qualify under the new regulations, effectively excluding the majority of would-be patients in the state from utilizing the program for which they voted.
Christie believes the crisis is manufactured for political gain by the medical marijuana community and also draws the line at children using marijuana, such as Wilson’s daughter.
Christie has stated he is “not inclined” to provide children like Vivian Wilson with marijuana, stating “I am not going to allow New Jersey to become a California or a Colorado where someone can fake a headache and get a bag of pot on every corner. So I’m very concerned, if we go down this slope of allowing minors to use this, where it ends.”
Although Governor Christie seems to be a continued roadblock to the program, the state senate has moved on without him. This last week the senate approved a bill easing the restrictions for minors who would benefit from the medical marijuana program.
“Chris Christie likes to say he cares about patients and wants to make sure the neediest get medical cannabis. He’s not a doctor but we think he is human, that he has a heart somewhere in there. We hope he finds it and sees what he’s doing is making the most vulnerable of our society suffer needlessly and fixes the damage he’s wrought these years by keeping it from them,” said Ladybud Publisher Diane Fornbacher, “There are literally people who leave hospice to testify in support of this law, knowing full well they won’t live to see it implemented but they still try so that others might.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
- Write or call Chris Christie and politely tell inform of the facts surrounding medical marijuana use. Encourage him to enact the law voters passed and stop hampering it.
- Share this story via any social media network you use.
- Donate to CMMNJ and New Jersey NORML to help support efforts of New Jersey activists.