On Wednesday, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marie Lihotz heard a lawsuit against the state which claimed lawmakers were stalling out the state’s medical marijuana program, which was approved by the state legislature in 2009. The lawsuit was filed by a medical marijuana patient, Richard Caporusso, and a physician, Jeffrey Pollack. The aim of the lawsuit is to provide patients wider access to medical marijuana more quickly.
“Who is being harmed by all this are the thousands of patients in the state of New Jersey,” said Anne Davis, an attorney for Caporusso and Pollack. “This gives (terminal patients) quality of life.”
Currently only one medical marijuana dispensary has opened in New Jersey, and it has had to shut down temporarily due to high demand. It now only serves Northern New Jersey residents, leaving patients in other counties without access.
Judge Lihotz, who presided over a three judge panel, said that the lawsuit presented “an interesting, novel issue.” However, she rejected the lawsuit’s claim that the state was purposefully stalling the process as “innuendo”.
During the hearing, Davis and another attorney, Bill Buckman, asked the court to rule on a number of issues. First, they asked that the five members of the state Department of Health review board for medical marijuana dispensaries should agree to take on questions in a deposition on the reasons for the delay.
Additionally, the lawyers said that the health department should expedite the process of approving or denying applications. The lawyers cited one example of an applicant who had been under consideration for opening a collective for the past two years, even though authorities have said that members of its board of directors are under investigation for fraud.
Lihotz told lawyers she “could understand” their request seeking to compel the state to produce the yearly reports, which under law would allow patients to petition the state Department of Health to add more qualifying illnesses that can be treated with marijuana.
However, Deputy Attorney Michael Kennedy said that the court could only force the state agencies to make policy changes when they are found to be “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.” He argued to the court that state health department officials are being thorough in reviewing applications and should not be rushed through the process.