‘I feel like the victim of a scam perpetrated by my very own state’

Dear Editor:
I bring to your attention a highly unsatisfactory system perhaps exhibiting negligence by the N.J. Department of Health regarding our Garden State’s medical marijuana program. My wife was diagnosed with cancer in November of 2012. We had just (barely) survived Sandy and were happy to be back in our previously evacuated apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving when the shocking diagnosis hit us. Her tumors were large, spread through the abdominal membrane, so debulking surgery would need to wait until nine treatments of chemo shrunk the cancer for surgery to safely be performed and get whatever cancer remained visible to MD’s naked eye.
Then, another nine treatments of chemo intended to wipe out any microscopic cancer cells lurking in her body. We were thankful to know that NJ had recently passed the State MMP (Medicinal Marijuana Program) law allowing marijuana to be prescribed for the symptoms she was suffering. We were hopefully expecting this would greatly minimize her nausea and increase her appetite. Her weight was precariously low and the marijuana should act as an anti-nausea. She sure could use some “munchies” to put on weight before her surgery. Even though it is not difficult to purchase marijuana “on the street,” I wanted to work through the system. Encouraged to know my state now had a Medicinal Marijuana Program, I was willing to spend the money and time necessary to legally aid my ailing wife. I felt this would not take too long since we responded quickly to find and make appointments (four required!) with one of the few MD’s who handles this new practice.
Little did I know how much money would be needed and the inordinate amount of time it would take! Here we are almost five months later having spent close to $1,000 and still unable to get an appt for pot. I feel like the victim of a scam perpetrated by my very own state. “Unprepared” and “inexperienced” would be the kinder words I could use. However, “corrupt, criminal, unscrupulous and incompetent” are more likely to register in my mind.
See below: 11/15/2012-Received diagnosis 12/03/2012 First of four obligatory four separate (inconvenient) MD visits with Dr. Perry Stein in Montclair, NJ 516 578 7814. Each visit was perfunctory without any medical attention other than swiping my credit card. Merely playing by the rule book- Cost: $175 12/19/2012 Second visit. Cost $100 12/26/2012 Third visit $100 01/02/2013 Fourth visit $100 Total MD cost $475 01/23/2013 Was given appointment for Fingerprinting cost $75.00 01/29/2013 Received account number and could finally submit to NJ Gov’t services 609- 586-2600 NJ at a cost of $205.40 each card. One for me as caregiver; one for my wife as patient $205.40 x 2 = $410.80 02/04/2013 NJ Department of Health Medicinal Marijuana Program issues card as caregiver and patient. 02/12/2013 Received cards in mail 2/11/2013 Wife admitted to hospital for surgery 03/07/2013 new chemo rounds begin. Wife very ill from side effects. 03/11/2013 still no phone call from Greenleaf Compassion Center. When called, their recording basically states that any new patients will be given a phone call, “In the order that they receive the MMP card from the state…Please wait for someone to contact you.” Greenleaf Compassion Center 395 Bloomfield Ave Montclair, NJ 973 337 5670 www.greenleafcompassion.com The kicker is -there is an expiration date two years later on the card (now 1 1/2 months old and never used). This will require more money ($200 each?).

Fred Schecter

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