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Category: New Jersey News

Patients Not Allowed to Smoke in Seaside Boardwalk’s Smoking Section

Patients were told that smoking medical cannabis on the Seaside Boardwalk, even if it is in the designated smoking section, is not allowed. Although patients have the right to smoke where the law allows them, there are restrictions that limit medicating in certain public places.

Michelle Burns, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was quickly interrupted while trying to medicate in the designated smoking section on the boardwalk.

As shown in this video, she was confronted by a group of officers, one of the officers stated that no one has ever even explained the “medical marijuana” laws to them. Even though it is argued in the video that CUMMA allows medical marijuana patients to smoke where the Clean Air Act permits them, there are exceptions to the overarching rule. CSATC encourages all patients to review CUMMA and to respect the guidelines provided by the Department of Health stated below.

The Department of Health provides guidelines for patients which say:

“Patients are encouraged to use medicinal marijuana only in their residence. Patients may not smoke medicinal marijuana in a school bus, on public transportation, or in a private vehicle while in motion. Additionally, patients may not smoke medicinal marijuana on any school grounds or at any correctional facility, public park, beach, recreation center or other places where smoking is prohibited.” 

The officers clarified that the boardwalk is considered a recreation area, and this understanding was reinforced at a subsequent council meeting. The borough attorney said that they may consider altering this rule. Overall, it did not seem to be a hostile encounter with the police officers. The patients in the video were cooperative and understanding, and the officers gave suggestions on where they could medicate without being bothered by law enforcement.

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CSATC’s Improvements, New Strains and More

Since CSATC entered the cannabis industry in New Jersey, our goal has always been to continue to improve the Medical Marijuana Program. We recognize the realities of being a patient in New Jersey; a program structure that is expensive and one that limits patients’ access to high grade medical cannabis. Considering that there are only five alternative treatment centers in New Jersey, from the onset, CSATC has made constant efforts to provide patients with greater accessibility to the most affordable and the highest quality medicine.

CSATC is involved in constant research and development. We recently purchased new extraction instrumentation to improve the quality of our extract products. The new upgrade enhances our extracting ability by eliminating the post decarboxylation process. Eliminating this process minimizes the degradation of concentrate, which results in an increased clarity in our oil. In addition, our extract process has recently been enhanced, and utilizes a two stage distillation process to fully remove waxes allowing for higher concentration recovery and less non-targeted compounds. These recent improvements in our extracting abilities are noticeable in the physical clarity of our topical oil as well as improved taste, smell and provide an increase in the clarity of effects among our extract products.

Largest and most consistent variety of medical cannabis strains. Our growers are constantly working to improve strains by methodically adjusting grow conditions to maximize the medicinal components for patients. We are currently growing six new strains that will be announced before the end of the year. CSATC’s patient base is constantly growing, and to match the demand, our facility has been approved to expand an additional 23,000 square feet giving room for an additional 500 lights. In the short term, this will allow CSATC to grow enough medicine to supply our growing patient base. Our long term plan is to turn our existing building into our cultivation and processing location, and open a larger, better suited CSATC dispensary across the street from our existing location.

These efforts will enhance CSATC’s ability to provide the highest quality medical cannabis strains and products at even more affordable prices. Our mission is to help relieve the pain and suffering of patients with serious diseases, and in order to accomplish this goal, CSATC has implemented different initiatives to make our medical cannabis more accessible and affordable for patients in the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program.

Pricing
When CSATC opened, our prices were set below market value, but we knew that this wouldn’t be the end of our effort to improve patients’ access to medicine. Since then, we have expanded our hours of operation instituting the largest range of hours in the state for patients to purchase medicinal cannabis.

CSATC is unique in that our prices can be taken at face value. The prices patients see already includes the 6.875 percent state sales tax. CSATC is currently lobbying for the removal of the medical cannabis state sales tax, which would further reduce prices for patients. Over the past three months CSATC has reduced flower prices by more than 20 percent on over 12 top strains, and has increased the variety of featured strains in hopes that more patients will find the right strains for their debilitating medical condition. We also offer additional discounts including the Veteran’s Discount of 20%, the Compassionate Discount of 20% for those on government assistance and a Minor’s Discount of 40%.

As part of our hands-on approach to improve the New Jersey cannabis industry for patients, Executive Director George Schidlovsky has positioned himself on the board of directors for the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, a powerful and active association whose mission is to guide the decision makers and regulators in the budding cannabis industry to understand and respect the needs of the CannaBusiness community.

 

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Approval of New Qualifying Conditions Still Pending

In early May, the Medicinal Marijuana Review panel voted 5-1 to approve new qualifying conditions including different types of chronic pain, Tourette’s syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and anxiety related to Autism or Alzheimer’s disease. The board voted against recommending medical cannabis for treating asthma and chronic fatigue.  Although the board has voted to approve these conditions, after a 60 day period and another public hearing, the decision to add the conditions comes down to Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. The program’s already limited list restricts those who suffer from chronic pain to qualify if it’s a result of cancer or HIV/AIDS, even though many patients in the program experience chronic pain as a symptom of their qualifying condition.

The New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program has been criticized for being too restrictive, but its recent growth has been attributed to a series of small changes.

Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana New Jersey, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the approval of chronic pain could potentially allow 150,000 chronic pain suffers to join the New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program. According to the health department there are currently 11,659 patients enrolled in New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program. Upon the addition of chronic pain, regulatory adjustments may be necessary for ATCs to successfully supply the oncoming surge of patients.

 

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New Jersey MMP Gets a C grade From Americans For Safe Access

Americans For Safe Access (ASA) published a review of New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) on March 29, 2017, giving it a “C” grade and citing some of the program’s short comings.

ASA is the largest national member-based organization that promotes safe and legal access to medical cannabis. Its member base includes patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens. This grade puts New Jersey’s MMP ranking close to the middle of the road regarding other programs. The report lists 20 programs scoring lower than New Jersey’s MMP and 21 programs that scored higher than New Jersey’s C grade.

Comparing MMPs that were created around the same time as New Jersey’s; Washington DC received a B-; Arizona received a B-; and Delaware received a C+. For a relatively new MMP, New Jersey seems to be slightly behind its fellow programs, but there are opportunities for legislation to be amended and improved.

New Jersey’s MMP received this average grade due to categories such as patients’ rights and civil protection from discrimination, access to medicine and ease of navigation. Patients’ rights include their vulnerability to arrest and the lack of housing and employment protections. There has been two pieces of legislation introduced that have the potential to protect patients from certain adverse actions taken by employers regarding a patient’s status as a medical cannabis patient or a positive drug test for cannabis.

Ease of navigation took into consideration the qualifying conditions, how hard it is to enroll in the program, reasonable doctor requirements and more. New Jersey’s MMP has a limited list of qualify conditions, but it is anticipating additional conditions to be added with the Medical Marijuana Review Panel reviewing other conditions in the upcoming months.

Access to medicine in New Jersey does not include home grown cannabis. Instead, the MMP requires patients to choose one Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) to purchase medicine from at a given time. With only five ATCs to choose from, patients’ options are limited compared to other states.ASA-State-of-State-Report

 

According to ASA, there are over 2 million legal cannabis patients nationwide, and reports such as this gives insight on how to improve these patients’ lives.

 

To read the full report on
medical cannabis access in the U.S.
click here.

 

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Compassionate Sciences™ ATC Gives Suggestions for Recreational Cannabis Legislation

Legislation has been proposed in New Jersey to legalize the possession and personal use of small amounts of cannabis for residents age 21 and over. CSATC wants to ensure its patients in light of any legislation change, our focus and efforts will still be to provide patients with the highest quality medicinal cannabis possible at affordable prices.

As a leader in the existing New Jersey cannabis industry, we have reviewed the legislation, and are providing comments and suggestions to ensure a well-structured and properly-implemented plan for a recreational cannabis market.

The Market 

The proposed legislation would implement a 25% sales tax on recreational cannabis. One of the purposes of creating a recreational cannabis market is to decrease black market sales and produce tax revenue for the state. We believe that a 25% sales tax is too high and would not lead to a measurable decrease in black market sales. As a part of allowing existing Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) to participate in the recreation market, we believe the current sales tax on medical cannabis should be eliminated and the requirement that ATCs operate as non-profit entities be removed. Close attention should be given when figuring how the tax structure of a new recreational market will fit into the already existing cannabis industry. For example, reasonably priced recreational cannabis can decrease black market activity, which in return can positively impact limiting the diversion of cannabis to minors.

Framework 

The legislation calls for the Division of Alcoholic and Beverage Control to be renamed and to adopt regulations necessary for the implementation of the bill. Although the creation of a new division of marijuana enforcement is necessary, we suggest that most of the regulatory framework to create a recreational cannabis industry in New Jersey already exists within the state Medical Marijuana Program. We believe that the NJMMP should be used as a stepping off point for the creation of a safe and effective recreational cannabis industry. There is already an entire regulatory structure that can contribute to nearly 60% of the recreational regulations.

Enforcement of the Cannabis Industry

Currently, the NJMMP is regulated and enforced by the Department of Health.  If this legislation is signed into law, it is unclear if that will continue to be the same. We suggest considering “picking up” the MMP and placing it with the recreational regulation under a single agency similar to Colorado.

Also, the current legislation proposes that the Division of Marijuana Enforcement may create an “expert task force to make recommendations to the division about the content” of regulations that will govern the recreational program. The legislation doesn’t specify who will be appointed to this task force, and we would like the legislation to be more specific in this manner. We suggest that the legislation stipulates that one or more of the current ATCs be a member of the task force given their history of knowledge and compliance.

Regulations 

The legislation is unclear on how it will regulate companies that are entering the industry. There is no specific section explaining how the total number of retail licenses will be determined and if the number of licenses held by a single entity will be capped. For example, the MMP utilizes a vertical licensing structure that allows ATCs to hold Class 1 and Class 3 licenses for cultivating and selling cannabis. There are no licensing fees in the current legislation, and it would be helpful to include them for those who are planning to enter the market. Currently ATCs are required to operate grow facilities at a single site, but we suggest the legislation defines whether it allows ATCs to operate grow facilities at multiple locations or not. Furthermore, the legislation should allow existing ATCs to enter the recreational market more immediately than the 1-year period proposed after the legislation becomes law. It should also provide operational guidelines of how an ATC would do so. Some of these guidelines should specify the following: if ATCs would be able to dispense recreational cannabis at the same location; and if ATCs would need to have separate points of entry and sales.

Serving Size and THC Content

We believe the section regarding serving size should reflect the MMP’s current standard of 10mg THC as a single “dose.” By choosing a THC content that represents a “single serving” consumers will know the potency and what effects to expect when consuming different types of products. We agree that serving sizes should be individually packaged if a THC amount standard is established.

In addition, we suggest providing limits based on THC content and product potency as opposed to weight or liquid content measurement to define what is an “unlawful” offense. For example, 72 ounces of liquid could be an amount of product containing massive THC content.

Terms  

The proposed legislation uses terms that are not scientifically accepted or industry endorsed, which can lead to problems when defining what is and what is not “lawful” under this legislation.

Other vague language such as marijuana paraphernalia, marijuana products and produces, should be more clearly defined to minimize confusion when introducing such legislation.

Also, the legislation calls for “marijuana testing facilities” but doesn’t specify who or what will prepare the accreditation requirements for such establishments. We believe the stringent testing requirements put forth by the MMP should be standard for the recreational market as well, but the legislation should clarify that testing lab framework should be independent and not state run.

Finally, the legislation uses the term medical marijuana center and the legislation should mirror defining language in the MMP to avoid conflict or confusion.

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New Jersey’s medical marijuana industry posted a banner year in 2016

pngNew Jersey’s medical marijuana industry posted a banner year in 2016, with patient counts ballooning 76% and sales volume doubling thanks to a series of small changes to the state’s MMJ program and the opening of two new dispensaries.

This is welcome news for a program that has struggled to enroll patients amid high MMJ prices, weak doctor participation and limited access to treatment centers.

Over the course of 2016, New Jersey added roughly 4,600 patients to the MMJ program, ending the year at nearly 11,000. Sales of MMJ jumped by an even greater degree, as the state’s five dispensaries sold a combined 2,694 pounds of cannabis in 2016, a 119% increase from the previous year.

Two of those five dispensaries – Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center in Cranbury and Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center in Bellmawr– came online in late 2015. The addition of these dispensaries is responsible for much of the growth in sales but is likely driving patient counts as well.

Compassionate Sciences, for example, opened in September 2015 in western New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. The dispensary is located in an area of the state not covered by the other four dispensaries, and it ended 2016 with significantly more MMJ sales than all its competitors.

Foundation Harmony, the sixth and final dispensary to be awarded a license, is still undergoing examination from the state before being allowed to open.

These two new dispensaries also added some much-needed competition to the market, lowering MMJ prices in the state to about $300 per ounce, down from highs of nearly $500 per ounce.

New Jersey prices were previously some of the highest of any MMJ market in the nation and likely prevented many would-be patients from seeking an MMJ recommendation. State data shows that 45% of registered patients qualified for and received a reduced application fee. The discount is given to patients who receive some form of government assistance, including – but not limited to – Medicaid and disability benefits.

Beyond the addition of new dispensaries, the state has also made changes to the MMJ program that should further boost patient counts.

Despite his misgivings, Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation adding PTSD to the list of qualifying MMJ conditions last September. By the end of the year, nearly 500 patients with PTSD qualified for the program, accounting for approximately 4% of all MMJ patients in the state.

In July, New Jersey’s health department instituted a program that allows the public to petition to have ailments added to the list of qualifying MMJ conditions. According to the Department of Health, 45 conditions met the program’s guidelines and were passed on to the Medicinal Medical Review Panel. The panel will hold meetings throughout 2017 to consider those petitions.

The program still faces challenges, however, as industry observers believe it still needs more licensed physicians willing to recommend marijuana, while restrictions on the types of MMJ products allowed to be sold may lead potential patients to the black market.

 

 

Source
New Jersey Department of Health
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