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Editorial: It's about time N.J. moves forward with medical marijuana growing, distribution plan

Rich 2011-03-28 0 comments

We’re glad to see the state’s Compassionate Use Marijuana Act finally taking hold with the designation of six nonprofits to grow and sell what will now be a prescription medicine for patients in debilitating pain.

A board member of one of the nonprofits, based in Princeton, spoke with Times Staff Writer Meir Rinde last week. What William Thomas of the Compassionate Care Foundation said should settle any lingering qualms there might be about the no-nonsense system in place to safeguard growing and distribution of the drug.

The law requires organizations tapped by the state to make three products: a topical lotion, a lozenge and an “organic product,” which is heated and inhaled as water vapor. And while the foundation is based in Princeton, the marijuana will be grown in a highly secure and sterile manufacturing environment.

“We treat this as a pharmaceutical manufacturing process,” Mr. Thomas said. “It’s not agriculture. It’s very much akin to penicillin or aspirin.”

The foundation is looking at a site in Bellmawr in Camden County to grow and dispense the marijuana. That may change, depending on zoning laws and the community’s input. That’s as it should be, of course. No alternative treatment center or ATC should be forced on a community; as long as the centers are within reasonable reach of patients in South, Central or North Jersey, their location will be a local decision.

Communities, however, should not overlook a positive economic impact. Mr. Thomas, for example, anticipates the Compassionate Care Foundation ATC will generate 140 jobs.

AP File PhotoA worker at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic prepares marijuana for sale in October 2009.

As the state begins to carry out the new law, controversy remains. The law’s Senate sponsors have said they would rather overturn the proposed rules and start over, delaying the start of the program, than allow its restrictive regulations to move forward.

Repealing the medical marijuana law and starting over could take years. That would represent more years of debilitating pain for those this law was designed to help. Many of them just don’t have that time.

It makes more sense to get the growing and distribution centers up and running. Once the program is operational, lawmakers will have an opportunity to make their case for fine-tuning the mechanism.

Mr. Thomas described one meeting where the families of those suffering the chronic pain of cancer said they would send their teenage children out to buy marijuana as the only effective relief.

“Who knows what they’re buying?” he said.

At least New Jersey’s fledgling program will begin to offer a better answer for thousands of patients in daily and agonizing pain.