Inquirer Editorial: Jersey officials, don't 'bogart' marijuana relief

Posted: September 07, 2012

It's hard to believe it has been more than two years since New Jersey passed a medical marijuana law.

The state has yet to dispense any marijuana under a program that has been in limbo and bogged down with bureaucratic red tape.

As he was leaving office in 2010, Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed one of the strictest marijuana laws in the country.

But implementing the law has been a slow process. The Christie administration first debated with lawmakers over regulations and then found ways to drag its feet.

Chronically ill or dying patients are justifiably frustrated. Researchers agree that marijuana can ease the pain of those suffering from debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS, or multiple sclerosis.

Six nonprofit groups were selected to grow marijuana and operate dispensaries. So far, only one, the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, Essex County, has been licensed to grow a crop.

If it opens as expected later this month, registered patients will have to travel to North Jersey, which seems like an unnecessary inconvenience, until other dispensaries open.

After the state opened a registry of eligible patients last month, advocates finally have reason for guarded optimism. One hundred people signed up.

New Jersey is one of 17 states that, along with the District of Columbia, permit medical marijuana. The Obama administration eliminated a major hurdle when it said it would not target legitimate state dispensaries.

The state says it must check and double-check every detail to avoid the mistakes made in states like California, where providing medical marijuana has led to a booming recreational pot business with rampant abuses.

New Jersey officials must observe due diligence. They should also remember those who suffer, waiting in pain.

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