A retired State Police lieutenant was named today to run the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program that is expected to begin operating next year, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd announced. John H. O’Brien Jr., a 26-year veteran and retired lieutenant of the New Jersey State Police, and “an expert in the use of FBI and New Jersey criminal history record systems,” will begin on Dec. 5, according to O’Dowd’s announcement. O’Brien “has the expertise to get this program up and running with integrity. No Alternative Treatment Center will be issued a permit to grow or dispense medicinal marijuana until each applicant, its officers, board members and employees have been thoroughly vetted” and have met all regulatory requirements. The appointment follows mounting concern over the sluggish place of getting the program up and running nearly two years after the law was enacted.
Two recent Star-Ledger reports raised concerns about the vetting of two proposed centers and other problems with the program, including appeals filed by four separate centers challenging the state’s selection process. Additionally, patients’ I.D. cards have not been made, and the health department is unsure if it will even publish the names of 108 physicians who have pre-registered for the program, leaving patients unsure how they can find an appropriate doctor. O’Brien, 51, of Manchester Township, created a program while at the State Police that tracked the criminal history of gun buyers, as well as another “consumer-friendly program” that provided fingerprinting records and services for people applying to be teachers, child care workers and nurses’ aides, according to the announcement. “I am appreciative of the confidence and support shown to me by Commissioner O’Dowd,” O’Brien said. “I believe the Administration and the Legislature have developed a firm foundation on which to build this program. I look forward to the opportunity to successfully bring the program to full implementation.”
O’Brien will report to Deputy Commissioner Arturo Brito, a pediatrician hired last week to oversee public health services. O’Brien, who retired from the State Police in June, will draw an $84,000 salary in the new job, state health spokeswoman Donna Leusner said. Roseanne Scotti, director of New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance and a major proponent for the law’s passage, called the choice of a law enforcement officer to run the program “disappointing.” The people who need access to medical marijuana are patients.They are not criminals,” Scotti said. “I think it would have been more appropriate to have the program headed by a medical doctor.” Gov. Christie has said repeatedly he did not think the law was stringent enough to keep the drug out of the hands of recreational users, and worried New Jersey could become as permissive as California and Colorado. “I understand there has to be security – It’s in the law and regulations and the Attorney General has a role to play here in terms of background checks,” she added. “I know from talking to the patients they feel the emphasis of the program has been on law and security, rather than providing them the relief they need.”
via : NJ.com
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