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Scutari/Whelan Measure Challenging Medical Marijuana Rules Receives Final Approval In Senate

Passage Starts 30-Day Clock For Administration To Amend Proposed Regulations

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) and Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) challenging the Christie Administration’s proposed rules for implementing the state’s medical marijuana law received final approval today in the Senate, starting the 30-day clock for the administration to amend the regulations.

The resolution (SCR-130/ACR-151) is part of a legislative process that would invalidate the Department of Health and Senior Services’ regulations as proposed and, ultimately, require the administration to rewrite the rules to bring them in line with the Legislature’s intent in creating the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.” Passage of the measure comes after the Governor’s announcement that he had reached a “compromise” with the Assembly on the regulations, and said he would relent on two points. The Senate sponsors, however, believe the regulations must still be revised.

“Despite a so-called compromise, I believe key areas of the regulations still would not comply with the intent of the law and would make it much too difficult for eligible patients to access relief through marijuana,” said Senator Scutari, prime sponsor of the medical marijuana law. “This measure gives the administration an opportunity to revise the rules and resubmit them to the Legislature for review, so that we can ensure the program is implemented in the way we intended.”

“The regulations put forward by the administration are simply out of line with the Legislative intent of the law,” said Senator Whelan, also a prime sponsor of the law. “This measure will ensure that New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is implemented in a way that allows people suffering from chronic and terminal diseases to access the medicine they need to alleviate excruciating and unrelenting pain.”

The resolution sought to address four key areas of the regulations: (1) the number of cultivation and distribution centers to be established, (2) the conditions for which conventional medical treatments must be exhausted before medicinal marijuana is prescribed, (3) the potency of the marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes and (4) the time period that must elapse before new conditions could be considered for treatment. The Governor decided to relent on the first two provisions; the other concerns remain.

“We never intended to make patients jump through hoops to access marijuana,” said Senator Whelan. “This resolution seeks to ensure that marijuana is treated in the same way as other medications that are used to treat pain, wasting and other debilitating conditions associated with severe illness.”

“The administration has tried painstakingly to make the medical marijuana regulations as prohibitive as possible for patients,” said Scutari. “It’s time the Governor and his administration stopped creating unnecessary delays to our medical marijuana program and put forward regulations that comply with the law, so we can finally get relief to the sick and dying patients who so desperately need it.”

The measure approved today is the first step toward exercising legislative veto power, constitutional authority granted by voters in 1992 that gives the Legislature the ability to invalidate rules and regulations it finds to be inconsistent with its intent in creating the law.

The resolution (SCR-130) gives the Administration 30 days to withdraw or amend the regulations. If the Administration does not, 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.

The bill cleared the full Senate by a vote of 22-16. It was approved in the Assembly in November by a vote of 48-22-7.

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