New Jersey’s unsettled and sometimes tumultuous medical marijuana program is leaving patients in need of their medicine in limbo. Such is the story of Tim DaGiau, 23, an epileptic patient who has suffered from severe seizures for 13 years. DaGiau has self-medicated to better control his malady with medical marijuana regularly since he was 18 while attending college in Colorado (a medi-pot state), after attempting a string of unsuccessful prescription medications and surgeries, the last of which left him paralyzed on one side of his body for several months. Cannabis on the other hand, reduced his pattern of seizures from 15 a month to nearly zero – a significant abatement to say the least.
However due to repeated delays in implementing New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program (administered by the state’s Dept of Health and Senior Services – DHSS), DaGiau and thousands of patients like him seeking legal, safe and more convenient access to the only medicine that works have to wait for the six state-approved nonprofit Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC) to open, now unlikely to happen until 2012 (it was previously projected the ATC’s would open by Summer, and then Fall ’11).
Despite New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s July announcement that the state’s Medical Marijuana Program would be “quickly implemented” (after a three-month hold following federal government threats against state medi-pot programs), a registry of legally approved patients has yet to be completed, preventing the six ATC’s from opening and dispensing medical marijuana.
For DaGiau, all the political posturing and departmental delays could not be more poorly timed – now that his studies are completed in Colorado, he’s returned to Clifton, New Jersey – but unfortunately, his epileptic seizures have also returned. He now resides in a state where he is unable to legally use medical marijuana – even though they have a medical cannabis law on the books. DaGiau’s frustration is more than understandable and hopefully the media awareness of his plight (and those of other patients) can increase the pressure to induce New Jersey’s ATC’s to open sooner rather than later.
Another potential setback for one Garden State ATC awaiting a final permit approval from the DHSS was averted when Compassionate Care Centers of America made a proactive move to end its association with one Kenneth Cayre, a member of the Center’s medical advisory board, who was discovered to have connections to convicted con-man Solomon Dwek.
Dwek plead guilty to federal bank fraud charges in U.S. District Court in New Jersey in 2009, which resulted in the arrests of 46 others (including public officials, politicians and three Orthodox rabbis) involved in the pyramid scheme that defrauded investors – including $60.2 million from Dwek’s own uncle. Dwek is being held in federal prison in Philadelphia awaiting sentencing. Apparently Dwek’s relationship ran so deep with entrepreneur Cayre that he referred to him as “Uncle Kenny,” as Cayre directly benefited from the ill-gotten gains of Dwek’s labyrinthine Ponzi scheme.
Compassionate Center directors acted quickly when they learned that their potential landlord Cayre was intimately tied to one of New Jersey’s more notorious residents. Last Monday, Compassionate Care Center director Michael Weisser didn’t know about the Dwek-Cayre relationship, and by Wednesday, Cayre was removed from the ATC.
The actions of Weisser and the other Compassionate Care Center directors were critical because the DHSS has yet to officially issue permits to the six ATC’s, so theoretically any one of the potential dispensaries could be denied growing and providing medical marijuana. In fact it was Gov Christie, then as a U.S. Attorney, who launched the investigation that lead to the sting operation against Dwek and the other con artists in ‘09.
Gov Christie went so far as to have his spokesperson issue a statement last week reminding all interested parties that “inappropriate or unfit applicants” will be denied an ATC license and that the governor still has “serious concerns” regarding implementation of the medical marijuana program. Hopefully no further hiccups occur and medi-pot patients in New Jersey like Tim DaGiau can obtain their medicine by early next year.