Source: North Jersey.com
The federal government has refused to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, saying there was no scientific evidence it worked, despite laws in New Jersey and 24 other states that permit its use for some conditions.
Marijuana stays in the most restricted class of drugs, with heroin and LSD, despite a request from the governors of Washington and Rhode Island and advocacy efforts by many others. But the government’s new policy will expand the number of institutions allowed to grow weed for scientific purposes, to enable more research on marijuana’s effects. For the past 50 years, the University of Mississippi has been researchers’ only source.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said the administration’s “failure to reclassify marijuana is disappointing. …“Choosing to ignore the medical value of marijuana defies common sense and the scientific evidence.”
Booker, along with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, and Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, have sponsored a bill that would change the classification of marijuana to a Schedule II drug to recognize its accepted medical uses. The measure would allow states to set their own medical-marijuana policies, and prevent federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in those states.
But others say the evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness has been anecdotal, and more rigorous studies are needed. They warn against caving to pressure from business interests that would profit from legalization or expanded sales.
The decision won’t change the availability of marijuana for registered patients in New Jersey, where a 2010 law permits its use for patients with severe, chronic pain; intractable muscular stiffness or spasticity and eight other debilitating conditions. More than 6,000 patients are registered and active in the program, and 362 physicians were registered last year to prescribe marijuana.
In New Jersey, although medical use is legal, patients must go through several steps before obtaining supplies. They first must be evaluated by a doctor who participates in the program, submit an application and photograph to the state, and pay a $200 fee. (About half of the registered users receive disability benefits or Medicaid, and pay a $20 application fee.) They then register with one of the dispensaries, where they must make their purchases, and are allowed a maximum supply of 2 ounces in a month.
Five treatment centers — in Montclair, Egg Harbor, Woodbridge, Cranbury and Bellmawr — have been approved by state authorities to grow and dispense various strains of marijuana, and an application for a sixth, in Secaucus, is under review.
The Health Department is accepting applications to add other medical or psychiatric conditions to the approved list of treatable conditions during the month of August — a first. Those petitions will be reviewed by a newly appointed committee. And veterans and others are waiting to see if Governor Christie will sign a measure passed by both houses of the Legislature that would allow patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to purchase medicinal marijuana.