TRENTON – Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) introduced a measure on Monday challenging the Christie Administration’s proposed rules for implementing the state’s medical marijuana law, saying they run far afoul of the law’s intent.
“The Administration has essentially rewritten the law, making the regulations so constrictive that it would be virtually impossible for eligible patients to access medical marijuana,” said Scutari, prime sponsor of the ‘New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.’ “As written, the rules run far afoul of the Legislature’s intent – this won’t stand. I urge the Administration to go back to the drawing board to write regulations that actually comply with the law.”
The measure seeks to address four key areas of the proposed Department of Health and Senior Services regulations that are inconsistent with the intent of the law and, in practice, would severely restrict or entirely prohibit access to medical marijuana by patients suffering with debilitating medical conditions.
The Senate Concurrent Resolution would challenge the provisions:
- Requiring that a physician certify that conventional medical treatments were exhausted before patients are eligible to access medical marijuana. The law signed early this year requires that only patients with certain conditions – seizure disorder, intractable muscle spasticity and glaucoma – be resistant to conventional medical therapy to qualify.
- Calling for two categories of medical alternative treatment centers – those to be used exclusively for cultivation, and those specifically to dispense marijuana. The law called for a sufficient number of ATCs throughout the state – at least two in each the northern, central and southern parts of the state. The exclusivity of the ATCs would severely limit accessibility; the administration has already stated its intention to initially allow for only four distribution centers and two cultivators.
- Establishing an arbitrary limit on the permissible levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that medical marijuana may contain, making New Jersey the only state with a medical marijuana program that has sought to do this.
- Unnecessarily delaying the consideration of adding other medical conditions and treatments for the program, by requiring the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to wait until the department has completed at least two annual reports on the law to the Governor and the Legislature. The law did not include such limits.
“It’s well known that our medical marijuana law is the strictest in the nation. And with the regulations set forth by the Administration, it appears we’re now one step short of a total repeal,” added Scutari. “We’re hopeful the Governor and the department will work with us to ensure that sick and dying patients are given reasonable access to medical marijuana, as the law provides. But let me be clear: We are fully prepared to invoke our constitutional power to force implementation of the law as we intended.”
The measure is the first step toward exercising legislative veto power, constitutional authority voters granted the Legislature in 1992. The amendment to the State Constitution gave the Legislature the ability to invalidate rules and regulations if the Legislature finds them to be inconsistent with its intent in creating the law. If approved by the full Legislature, the resolution would give the Administration 30 days to withdraw or amend the regulations. If the Administration does not withdraw or amend the regulations, either house of the Legislature would hold a public hearing on the invalidation or prohibition of the regulations. A transcript of the public hearing would be placed on the desks of each member of the Legislature. No sooner than 20 days after the public hearing transcript is placed on legislators’ desks, the full Legislature could adopt a second resolution to invalidate the regulations.
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