Drug Policy

Will Strict Medical Marijuana Rules Protect New Jersey From Federal Interference?


Yesterday New Jersey's Department of Health started registering patients who will be allowed to use marijuana as a medicine. As Nick Vadala notes on Philadelphia magazine's website, "Jersey has one of the country's strictest medical marijuana programs." It is open only to people with specified "debilitating medical conditions," does not permit home cultivation, caps THC levels at 10 percent, and confines distribution to six state-approved dispensaries. Those dispensaries—the first of which, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, plans to open "shortly after Labor Day"—are subject to numerous regulations:

"This is unlike any other business we've been involved with—the oversight and regulations are unbelievable. Guiding through those rules is difficult, but they keep everyone honest," [CEO Joe Stevens] says. As a former funeral director and X-ray technician, the man knows something about the value of meticulous, heavily enforced medical industry rules….

Legitimate growers and salesmen are hard to come by. Couple that with the required background checks, fingerprinting and drug tests (yes, drug tests) for dispensary employment, and you can see how applications from pie-in-the-sky stoners might muddy the interview pool slightly. Applicants with "black market" experience, says Stevens, are a definite no-no as well….

It's still somewhat difficult, even with the right staff, to sell a bud named something like Alaskan Thunder Fuck as a remedy to chemo-induced nausea and retain a modicum of medical legitimacy. Going the eponymous route, it would seem, flies a little lower under the countercultural radar.

"We're trying to stay away from genetic names because of the stigma attached to marijuana. We couldn't be taken seriously otherwise," says Stevens. Instead, GCC calls its three authorized cannabis strains "Greenleaf 1" and so on up the line.

Will this buttoned-down, anti-California approach protect New Jersey's dispensaries from federal harassment? Gov. Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney who delayed implementing New Jersey's 2010 medical marijuana law because of concerns about the conflict with federal law, seems to think so. But state regulation has not stopped Colorado's U.S. attorney from threatening licensed dispensaries, and Vadala notes an aspect of New Jersey's program that could put state employees in legal jeopardy:

Other states test crops through independent commercial labs, thereby allowing for different percentage results based on marketing. Jersey, however, requires that medical cannabis be tested for THC and other cannabinoids by the Department of Health and Senior Services. 

In other words, state regulators will not merely certify that suppliers have met the conditions necessary to avoid state prosecution. They will be handling marijuana themselves—not in the course of enforcing the ban on marijuana but in the course of facilitating its distribution. By contrast, the dispensary bill that Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire vetoed last year "was specifically amended…to remove any requirements that [state] employees come in contact with marijuana," according to Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington. "All of the testing and handling and inspection was to be done by independent, private, third parties." That change was aimed at allaying concerns that the feds might prosecute state employees for executing the law. The scenario may seem unlikely, but if the DEA starts busting New Jersey's pot testers, it would set up an interesting confrontation between a conservative Republican who criticizes the war on drugs and a liberal Democrat who promised tolerance but delivered a crackdown. 

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  1. does not permit home cultivation, caps THC levels at 10 percent, and confines distribution to six state-approved dispensaries. Those dispensaries?the first of which, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, plans to open “shortly after Labor Day”?are subject to numerous regulations:

    “This is unlike any other business we’ve been involved with?the oversight and regulations are unbelievable

    How can anyone have to even think about why we are going broke as a nation? It is insanity in the first place to think you have the right to tell people what they can or cannot put into their bodies. Then you say, ok, let them have it but lets make it extremely complex to comply with the rules of having it. We’ll have to hire an army of useless people to oversee it, but somehow it is worth it. The world has went completely fucking mad. It actually made more sense when it was just illegal.

    I know a guy who had a sig line of ‘the greatest threat to the progress of mankind is meetings’, or something like that. The fuck it is, the greatest threat is bureaucacy and there is nothing else that is even close. All statists and bureaucrats please go to hell right now and burn.

    1. Except they wouldn’t. Hell would end up freezing over.

  2. Will this buttoned-down, anti-California approach protect New Jersey’s dispensaries from federal harassment?

    Maybe maybe mayyyybe if (and this is counter-intuitive) Mittens wins.

    Perhaps his closeness with CC keeps the Feds at bay.

    1. Has Christie really spoken out against the WOD? I was totally unaware of that. Even if Romney won, which he has no change of, it wouldn’t make any difference because the Neocons in charge of the GOP will be the ones pulling Romneys strings. It would be too good to see a Republican prez having a better record on the WOD, even though we know that the crazed libbies would pretend it away.

      1. Oh no, Christie hasn’t taken a good position on it at all. I just think that Mittens might not stomp around in his territory simply out of respect.

        I have absolutely nothing to back up this feeling.

        1. Didn’t Romney say something about not approving of med mj but leaving it up to the states? I wouldn’t trust the SOB for one second but it seems that those who believed Obama, or more to the point thought he would be much better on the WoDs than anything indicated by his campaign rhetoric owes Mittens the same gullible rube-like suspension of disbelief you suckers gave Obama.

          Shit, maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll even close Double-Gitmo.

  3. Creating artificial scarcity before it is even available on the market. That’s got to be a new one. George Stigler is rolling over in his grave.

    1. Fail

      If I click preview I get my handle in boldface, underlined.

  4. Wow, the website is working again. For me, it was down for a while…

  5. This is only a test.
    Do not click this link.
    This has been a test.

  6. “Will Strict Medical Marijuana Rules Protect New Jersey From Federal Interference?”

    Let me explain: No.

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