The good folks at Blue Jersey drew my attention to this story earlier this week, which details the steps New Jersey is taking to implement its medical marijuana law which was passed last year. The Christie administration is slow-walking implementation of the law, and the state has proposed several regulations which at first glance might seem pretty tame:
Parents’ and caregivers’ frustration came through as they told Health Department officials that they object to a proposed limit on potency of the medical cannabis, a requirement that physicians go through more training before recommending the drug, and a $200 fee for patients to register for the program. The fee would cover two years; patients on state or federal assistance could register for $20.
Now, you might think, these pot-heads sure are complaining a lot about nothing! But the key here is that these patients are already obtaining marijuana illegally on the black market. The goal of the regulations, therefore, should be to first displace and then ultimately replace this black market for the sickest New Jerseyans. That’s why the legislature passed the law — so that HIV and cancer patients wouldn’t be branded criminals for taking their medicine.
But these regulations throw up roadblocks that would incentivize people to keep buying illegally. Does your pot dealer need a $200 license to carry your bag of weed? Is she limited to growing three strains of pot? Another proposed regulation bans home-delivery of marijuana through licensed alternative-care centers. That sounds nice, until you realize that a lot of marijuana dealers will gladly offer home-delivery. And they won’t be limiting the “potency” of their product.
It would be one thing if marijuana was truly dangerous or there was a high risk of overdose. But there isn’t. Do we really need to mandate that physicians get extra training to prescribe a drug that’s safer than virtually all prescription pain medication? I’m not sure if these regulations are well-intentioned or not; regardless, they will effectively neuter the law, despite their ring of common sense. Until they’re changed, I’d have to reluctantly agree with patient Sandra Failoa: “I would rather wait until [new] regulations are created rather than see a program with these problems.” Replacing the black market with a more expensive, more annoying market won’t get us very far.