Testimony to the Division of Consumer Affairs Regarding Marijuana as a Schedule 1 Controlled Dangerous Substance
The testimony below was presented by CMMNJ Board Member Jo Ann Zito at the Division of Consumer Affairs hearing in Newark today, April 19th:
Division of Consumer Affairs – Drug Control Unit
124 Halsey Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Dear Members of the Division,
My name is Jo Anne Zito and I have been a medicinal marijuana (cannabis) patient advocate with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana -- New Jersey for the past three years. I am thankful to have this opportunity to help patients and the community in this hearing.
I would like to first start out by asking, what is a medicine? Medicine is a compound or preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease, especially a drug or drug taken by mouth. A substance used in medicine, any substance, vegetable, animal, or mineral used in the composition of medicines.
What is cannabis? Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the cannabacae family. An annual flowering herb. Like many herbs, cannabis can be used for food and not just the seeds, which are considered a superfood because of their near perfect balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin E, iron, and all essential amino acids, but the leaves and buds as well. The stalks, hemp, can make an extremely durable fiber that is safe for the environment and can replace any toxic plastic. This should be noted. In places where cannabis is legal, citizens have been able to juice cannabis and according to Dr. William Courtney, juicing cannabis is one of the healthiest ways to ingest the plant and can even prevent many of the illnesses cannabis treats.
Cannabis has been treating many illnesses well before it’s illegal status and since its illegal status with great success. What makes cannabis unique to other vegetables and herbs that are juiced is that cannabis contains an abundance of cannabinoids that are exclusive to the plant. This brings to mind, what makes its scheduled status more unsettling is that as humans, we have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies to receive cannabinoids, which their job is to create a homeostasis in the body. The Endocannabinoid System was discovered by scientists in 1992.
This homeostasis is especially important when considering our current social ills in regards to pain management and misuse and abuse that occurs in that realm. When comparing the safety of cannabis against legal and illegal opiates, cannabis has much greater safety and efficacy. Children and parents are dying nearly everyday from opioids, yet with cannabis being the most widely used illicit drug in the world, we don’t see such situations. Thankfully, medicine is finally catching up to see that cannabis is a great adjunct medicine that helps synthetic medicines work better and lessen use of those and that is also a treatment for Opioid Use Disorder and other more dangerous addictions like, alcohol.
When we compare cannabis and alcohol and the social issues that are related, alcohol has caused far greater harm in many lives than cannabis. Whether from consuming too much, driving after consuming, and just overall health, cannabis is much safer. It has been my own experience that instances of physical and sexual assault are more prevalent in situations involving alcohol. This can be situations where the perpetrator is inebriated and assaults someone physically or sexually or when the victim is inebriated to the point of unconsciousness allowing assault to occur in many situations where it otherwise would not.
There are many other dangers that come from having cannabis schedule I and illegal. The social harms that can come with prohibition are many. Examples are like when someone is convicted of a cannabis crime, they are faced with life-long adversities and children of parents that are arrested are more likely to suffer from poverty and depression. Interactions with police can have deadly consequences. A majority of people that use cannabis are not gang members, but gang violence occurs over cannabis in its illegal status. Mixing non-violent drug offenders with violent offenders also can be deadly. When offenders are put on probation and rehabilitation programs which for many is unnecessary or even counter-intuitive, it can drive participants to use more dangerous drugs that leave the system quickly enough to pass a drug screen. These instances can have deadly consequences as well or fill emergency rooms. When all these instances occur, it is the public that has to pay.
To add insult to injury, the federal government has a patent on cannabinoids in the use of medicine, yet they threaten to come after medicinal/legal states. These patents resulted from their own study in 1974 showing cannabis kills cancer cells. On top of that, the federal government has had a medicinal marijuana program, Compassionate Investigational New Drug (Compassionate IND) program ongoing since 1978 which they closed to new applicants in 1992 when there was an influx due to the AIDS crisis. There is one out of the 15 patients still alive today receiving cannabis from the federal government, yet they keep it schedule I.
So cannabis is a food, a medicine, a fiber, an ancient religious sacrament (which I did not go into for time's sake), and a social use product, which has been shown to be safer than alcohol, not just because it has been shown, but also because it may reduce alcohol use. Legal and medicinal cannabis has shown to reduce the use of many other substances, including other more dangerous illicit drugs, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs.
With all this said, prohibition of this very useful, versatile herb is absurd and we are in need of a grand change and I think descheduling cannabis all together can help greatly in that change.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Jo Anne Zito
Coalition for Medical Marijuana -- New Jersey
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Coalition of Medical Marijuana, New Jersey (CMMNJ)
Contact:Peter Rosenfeld ---- jprosenfeldyahoo.com
December 7, 2017 at 10:00AM - Press Conference in NJ State Capitol Building Annex, Room 9.
New Jersey Medical Marijuana Patients To Governor-elect Murphy: We Need Home Cultivation
Trenton: Registered medical marijuana patients in New Jersey will gather at the State Capitol Building Annex, Room 9 on December 7th at 10:00 a.m. for a press conference calling on legislators and Governor-elect Phil Murphy to allow home cultivation of cannabis.
Advocates will highlight the stories of patients serving prison time for a handful of plants and will have a model of a small home medical marijuana grow on display.
Peter Rosenfeld, a board member of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ), pointed out that caregivers and patients were expecting home gardens until the provision was removed in 2009 from the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act. Almost a decade later and the promises of a robust medical marijuana program have been broken.
“Patients are still being arrested or moving away due to the problems in the state's program,” says Rosenfeld, “The price is unaffordable to many, and the dispensaries have difficulty in staying stocked with the strains that patients need.”
The demonstration of a typical home cultivation setup will include 2-3 flowering plants, LED lights and 2-3 immature plants. This style of indoor garden will cost much less than what a patient currently spends on an ounce of dried flower from the state dispensaries.
Ken Wolski RN, Executive Director of CMMNJ, who will be speaking at the press briefing said, “Home cultivation empowers patients to take charge of their own healthcare, to grow their own medicine for pennies and to choose the specific strains that best helps their medical conditions.”
Rosenfeld added, “As New Jersey moves on to full legalization of marijuana we want legislators and Governor-elect Murphy to consider the needs of our state's medical marijuana patients.”
CMMNJ will have copies of model legislation that contains detailed improvements. CMMNJ also extends an open invitation to Governor-elect Murphy to attend our next meeting in Lawrenceville.
Contact: Peter Rosenfeld jprosenfeldyahoo.com
The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Inc. (CMMNJ) has identified issues to make the NJ Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) more effective.
The amendments CMMNJ proposes to NJ’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act would bring comprehensive changes to the MMP. These needed improvements to the MMP would:
• Eliminate the physician registry (This is a major stumbling block to an effective program, and it was not called for in the law. A voluntary registry would be OK to help patients find physicians who will recommend medical marijuana in the event a patient cannot locate a doctor, but any licensed NJ healthcare professional with prescriptive privileges, including Advanced Practice Nurses, should be allowed to recommend marijuana for patients);
• Expand qualifying conditions (Immediately add to the NJ MMP the 43 petitions to add qualifying conditions that were given final approval by the NJ DOH MMP Review Panel);
• Restore home cultivation of 6 (six) plants for qualified patients with a NJ MMP ID card;
• Eliminate the tax on medical marijuana;
• Include explicit employee workplace protections;
• Eliminate background check and fee for caregiver ID card, and reduce ID card fees;
• Eliminate the requirement for psychiatric clearance for minors;
• Require initial and ongoing training for all state, county and local Law Enforcement Officers;
• Eliminate the two ounce/month limit;
• Honor out-of–state ID cards and allow patients to obtain medical marijuana from out-of-state, if necessary;
• Cut permit fees for ATCs and impose no upper limit on the number of ATCs;
• Permit any edible form of marijuana for any age and establish dosage units for all forms (The current prohibition on edibles for adults while allowing them for minors is simply absurd);
• Require testing in licensed laboratories on each batch of marijuana (and on request);
• Forbid the DOH to issue overly restrictive or unduly burdensome regulations for this law;
• Eliminate the need for marijuana to be the last resort drug and establish it as a potential treatment of first resort;
• Broaden the definition of caregiver to allow for more than one child and eliminate the background check for the Primary Caregiver;
• Establish secondary caregivers who will be permitted to assist qualifying patients with the use of medical marijuana at schools, facilities for the developmentally disabled and LTC facilities. These secondary caregivers can be adult employees of the patient’s school or facility, and a person may serve as secondary caregiver to more than one qualifying patient at the school or facility at a time. Eliminate the fees for both caregivers.
(Ideally, nurses at the facilities would automatically qualify as secondary caregivers. Nurses should have no problem administering standardized doses of medical marijuana, as long as the typical prescribing information accompanies the drug—side effects, adverse effects, usual dosage, precautions, drug interactions, etc. This info is already available. While the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, the feds have promised not to interfere with the state medical marijuana programs, and indeed they have not. Besides, the federal government has no power over the actions of nurses in NJ. NJ determines what appropriate actions for nurses to perform are.)
• Deschedule marijuana in NJ—remove it entirely as a Scheduled Drug since marijuana will soon be legalized in the state;
• Consider medical marijuana the same as any other medication used at the direction of a physician, and a patient may not be disqualified from receiving any medical care, including an organ transplant, based on the authorized use of medical marijuana;
• Block local governmental units of this state from enacting or enforcing any ordinance or other local law or regulation conflicting with, or preempted by, any provision of this law;
• Establish no upper limits on the number of ATCs in the state;
• Get the Board of Medical Examiners (BME) actively involved in educating physicians about the Endocannabinoid System and advising physicians of the availability of the standardized dosage unit information;
(The BME should insist that every physician in the state be required to take 1 – 3 hours of Continuing Medical Education on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) as a condition for continued licensure in the state. The ECS is an important emerging science, developed within the last 25 years, that explains how marijuana works in the human body and how it can be effective for so many diverse diseases, symptoms and conditions. Even today, the ECS is only mentioned in about 13% of medical schools, despite its many implications for healthcare. Moreover, the DOH has an MMP which many physicians are completely ignorant of, and have no incentive to learn about. These physicians refuse appropriate care to qualified patients in NJ, and often belittle and insult attempts by patients to receive this care.)
• Complete prescribing information, developed by the NJ DOH, should be available to NJ physicians when standardized doses of edible marijuana are available (currently lozenges and oils are available at one of the ATCs in NJ);
• Expand the time period that physicians may provide written instructions for to 60 days, which may include multiple written instructions up to 6 months.
(Once a patient with a chronic condition is established on medical marijuana, it should not be necessary to be routinely seen more frequently than this.)
• Allow edible medical marijuana products for qualified patients in all state institutions including psychiatric hospitals and state prisons.
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
December 12, 2017
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