(Freedom Is Green) Today a lawsuit was filed against the State of New Jersey over the failure to implement the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.
Civil rights attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick brought the suit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana.
The compassionate use law was passed in January 2010 with a six-month implementation timeline. But since 2010 a series of politically motivated regulatory, legislative and bureaucratic delays have kept the program from operating at all. None of the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers have been fully permitted by DHSS to open.
“We represent a patient who suffered actual damages as a result of these delays,” said Anne Davis, “He cannot utilize the cannabis because New Jersey’s lack of a working program means he could lose his disability pension if he tested positive for cannabis.”
Davis continued, “Our neighbors with AIDS, cancer, MS and the worst of medical conditions have testified before the legislature and changed the law. Now, patients and doctors have to go to court to win the rights that they should have already been afforded.”
I first met Anne M. Davis in the shuttle from the Aspen airport to the Gant Resort where the Aspen Legal Seminar is held annually. This was 2007 and I was attending for the first time with Oregon NORML Executive Director Madeline Martinez and her husband Rafael. She was traveling with a friend, Delia, and once we realized we were all headed to the same event we sparked up quite the conversation. She was brand new in the marijuana activism world and we ushered her into the crazy world of drug law reform with open arms and a mile-and-a-half-high welcome.
Next she was attending the 2008 NORML National Conference in Berkeley, again with Delia in tow. One of the top moments of my life was escorting the two of them in the Oaksterdam limo to visit Coffee Shop Blue Sky, Richard Lee’s place that is now a vegan spot and was just raided by DEA. I still had my show on XM Satellite Radio and it so happened to be on the air at the time while we were in the limo (it was a pre-recorded show). They say my ego swelled three sizes that day…
I was back in Aspen for the 2009 Legal Seminar and “the Jersey Girls” (as they’d become known) were back again. Now Anne had undertaken the responsibility of joining the board of NORML New Jersey. She and Chris Goldstein, the diMaria’s, and many more NORML NJ members were working alongside Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey to get a bare bones, extremely limited medical marijuana bill through the legislature. She was also back for the 2009 NORML National Conference in San Francisco, networking and learning from the most experienced and gifted minds in marijuana law reform. In 2010, Anne was with us again for the 2010 Aspen Legal Seminar.
Since then she’s been raising her daughters and working hard for marijuana consumers in New Jersey, one of the tougher states to advocate for marijuana legalization. I last saw her while I was on vacation in Key West last December. She has been also attending the Key West Legal Seminars since joining NORML, honing her skills and knowledge on marijuana law reform.
So when somebody asks me what NORML has been doing lately to legalize marijuana, I point to one of our members like Anne Davis and say, “Providing five years of mentoring and networking for the lawyer who’s going to sue Gov. Chris Christie into finally implementing a medical marijuana program AIDS, cancer, and MS patients, that’s what!”
(No disrespect intended to William Buckman, another knockout NORML attorney who is leading this case; I only focus on Anne for the “from joining to suing a state” story and because I know her personally.)