The Medical Marijuana Melee

In 2010, our state’s fearless lawmakers passed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.  The Act legalized the distribution of medical marijuana to qualifying patients. The law provided for the establishment of six so-called “Alternative Treatment Centers” (ATCs).  The ATCs were to be spread evenly throughout New Jersey. The Department of Health was put in charge of overseeing the act’s implementation.  The department took measures to ensure that the new system was not abused.

One such measure was a blanket prohibition on giving out licenses to for-profit companies. In order to qualify for the high honor of running an ATC, a company had to be a nonprofit. The reason for this requirement was simple.  The last thing the Garden State needs is a network of glorified drug dealers posing as medical professionals.

Once the state opened its doors to applications, dozens of eager hopefuls seized the opportunity. Alas, only six lucky applicants were chosen.  The others were left high and dry.  One rejected applicant, a for-profit “natural” healing company, complained.  They were angry that, just because they were for-profit, they were disqualified. These natural healers challenged the regulations in court. They argued that there was a need for more ATCs in New Jersey.  Besides, as Mitt Romney says, corporations are people too! (OK, they didn’t really argue that, it just seemed to fit).

Recently, the court issued a ruling. The court’s analysis focused on a mind-numbing discussion about the meaning of the word “shall.” (Reminds me of Bill Clinton’s immortal words that “it depends what the meaning of “is” is.” But I digress). In the end, the court predictably sided with the Health Department. The judge ruled that the Health Department’s “decision follows the law, violates no express or implied legislative policies, and has not been shown to be unreasonable.” Really, this was an easy case.

In fact, the law is written so clearly, it’s like, you have to wonder what the challengers themselves were smoking when they decided to bring this case to court.