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‘Cruel Bureaucracy’ of Medical Marijuana Law Forces Sick, Frustrated Patients to Find Another Way

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally written for and can be found here)

A couple years after New Jersey joined 18 states in allowing medical marijuana, Governor Christie has been trying to severely weaken if not downright nullify the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, a final act of power by outgoing Governor Corzine. Governor Superfleece has created bureaucratic hurdles that have brought medical marijuana to its very knees, begging for mercy.

“At this point, I’ve given up. I’ve given up any hope of getting help from the state through legal channels. I’ll just get what my wife needs illegally.”  (Hudson Reporter)

These were the very pointed words of a Jersey City resident, who did not want to be identified and who delivered them from a waiting room last week at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where his wife was undergoing her second round of chemotherapy. Just a couple days after Hurricane Sandy and barely two weeks before Thanksgiving, this resident’s wife was hit with even more bad news as she was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, a very rare form of the disease that affects the thin tissue that lines the abdominal organs. Since immediate surgery was not an option, her doctors initially attempted to shrink her tumors with a nine-session round of chemotherapy, which would then be followed with surgery and a second round of cancer-fighting drugs. Obviously this intense treatment was considerably debilitating, as her husband says she dropped weight fast since she was so nauseous and unable to eat.

“I was getting concerned because, of course, all of this was going to be followed by surgery and we had to be sure she would be strong enough to go through with that,” said her husband.  (Hudson Reporter)

The husband then decided that he would get her enrolled in New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program to receive a prescription of pot. Since marijuana has been proven time and time again to help remedy the side effects from chemotherapy, he figured that the pot would reduce her nausea and start building up her appetite.

And here is where Christie’s ridiculously trying bureaucracy came to pass. If only she could’ve treated her ailments with an AR-15.

According to the law, his wife was required to “develop an ongoing relationship” with a doctor who specializes in palliative care. This relationship must be established over the course of four in-person appointments, which this couple did with palliative specialist Dr. Perry Stein of Montclair. And since medical insurance won’t cover such experimental treatment, the couple had to pay for these appointments out-of-pocket, according to the husband.

“That first appointment was 175 bucks. After that, the appointments were 100 bucks each. We then had to pay to get fingerprinted. And that was, like, $75. I was trying to do this thing right.” (Hudson Reporter)

And here’s where things got even worse for the couple. It seems that she was given an account number, a requirement for getting the prescription pot. But outrageously enough, the state required both of them to get identification cards that cost $205.40 each. By law, his wife is required to have an ID card as the patient, and he is required to have one as her caretaker.

“It’s been very frustrating for patients,” said Ken Wolski, CEO of the New Jersey chapter of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana, who is also a registered nurse. “We’ve heard terrible stories of people jumping through hoops to get registered and getting an ID card, but then not being able to get marijuana to treat their symptoms. And many of these people are just suffering needlessly.” (Hudson Reporter)

Totally vexed and frustrated, the husband said “It’s really a shame how this has turned out. “This is something that really would have been beneficial for my wife.” And after trying to do everything the right way but getting slammed by Christie’s cruel bureaucracy, the husband just figured that it would be easier to get it illegally.

 Michael is a comedian/VO artist/Columnist extraordinaire, who co-wrote an award-nominated comedy, produces a chapter of Laughing Liberally, wrote for NY Times Laugh Lines, guest-blogged for Joe Biden, and writes a column for affiliated Cagle Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and like NJ Laughing Liberally Lab if you love political humor from a progressive point-of-view. Seriously, follow him or he’ll send you a photo of Rush Limbaugh bending over in a thong.

Photo by Earthworm under Creative Commons license

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michael hayne

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