Cathi D., Mt. Laurel, is a constituent of NJ state Assemblyman Herb Conaway. She is also Jim Miller's significant other. Cathi first emailed her assembly representative through Conaway’s legislative website in September 2019 and got no response. Then she and Jim visited his office a month later and talked with “Gina” about the nature of her email that apparently “slipped through the cracks”. Gina called Cathi that evening to say that the information she dropped off was on Conaway’s desk and someone would be in touch. After no reply for two months Cathi sent this email to Gina.
December 17, 2019 Gina,
It has been over ¼ of a year since my first constituent request to schedule a meeting with a staff member for myself and my partner who is a medical marijuana patient. The stated purpose was to have a staff member fully assimilate the nature of our concern(s) and present it to Dr. Conaway for him to be able to be prepared for a subsequent meeting, the first meeting with him.
After that email sent through your legislative website was left unanswered for over a month, I along with Jim brought it to your office and spoke with you, leaving additional information for Assemblyman Conaway to go over before having a meeting scheduled. I thought that would save time and help him be prepared. You then called me that evening to verify that it was indeed on his desk. That was perhaps two months ago. Not a peep since.
Medical cannabis patients are now looking to the 14 current senators who voted in favor of our medical cannabis bill S119 a decade ago, requesting that they sponsor a stand-alone bill allowing for the home cultivation rights that they had already voted for in that bill, 6 cannabis plants per patient. That provision was pulled from S119's companion bill, A804, by Chairman Conaway 10 minutes before the vote in his Assembly Health Committee, without explanation then or now. Sadly, I was there with Jim to experience that unexplained blindside of sick and dying patients. Now, patients need to know what went wrong then in order to know if that impediment still exists. I would argue, publicly if necessary, that sick and dying patients deserve that information. For some, their lives depend on it.
I will be sending a certified copy of this email to your office; which I imagine you will be signing for. This will be my last request for an appointment with Assemblyman Conaway. As a constituent and a first-time contact, I would hope that this will all be proven to be a simple matter to correct with the scheduling of an ASAP meeting. 1000+ NJ registered medical cannabis patients have died since my first contact with your office over 3 months ago according to extrapolated DOH statistics. This will be my last request for a meeting with Assemblyman Conaway to meet with Jim and me. If left unanswered again I will have no choice but to leave it to Jim on how to proceed next. Please google search Jim Miller NJ medical marijuana to understand the benefit of compliance with this request. Cathi D. Mount Laurel, NJ
This email reply came back 15 minutes later:
Gina no longer works for the Assemblyman. My Chief of Staff is willing to meet with you in the beginning of the year. However, he would like to know what exactly you are looking for from the meeting.
MITCHELL ZUPKO Director of Constituent Relations ASSEMBLYMAN HERB CONAWAY, MD. Delran Professional Center 8008 Route 130 North, Suite 450 Delran, New Jersey 08075 | 856.461.3997 | Fax: 856.461.3823
With no organized effort underway, Cathi let things simmer for the rest of the year before sending this back:
Mitchell, Thank you for responding. Please do not consider the delay in my getting back to you to be indicative of a lack urgency in addressing my request.
What I am looking for in the meeting was covered in the first paragraph of my last email from Dec 17, 2019 (above). I will quote that here. I would assume that Gina's files are available to you as well.
"The stated purpose was to have a staff member fully assimilate the nature of our concern(s) and present it to Dr. Conaway for him to be able to be prepared for a subsequent meeting, the first meeting with him. Medical cannabis patients are now looking to the 14 current senators who voted in favor of our medical cannabis bill S119 a decade ago, requesting that they sponsor a stand-alone bill allowing for the home cultivation rights that they had already voted for in that bill, 6 cannabis plants per patient. That provision was pulled from S119's companion bill, A804, by Chairman Conaway 10 minutes before the vote in his Assembly Health Committee, without explanation then or now. Sadly, I was there with Jim to experience that unexplained blindside of sick and dying patients. Now, patients need to know what went wrong then in order to know if that impediment still exists. I would argue, publicly if necessary, that sick and dying patients deserve that information. For some, their lives depend on it".
So, to be more specific, did Chairman Conaway act on his own to pull home cultivation from S119 (instead of having A804 be an identical companion bill to S119)? That doesn't seem viable. Other legislators have surmised that Governor Corzine issued the ultimatum in order to get his signature. After a decade, guesswork on the part of patients will no longer be an option. Why was home cultivation pulled?
Patients will need to have an answer if they hope to convince any of those 14 current supportive senators to author a stand-alone bill for getting the home cultivation rights that passed on the full floor of the senate in 2009. They will be asking for a "copy and paste bill" that would be one of the most conservative in the country, just as it would have been 10 years ago.
You must already know that patients are going broke "affording" the full price of their expensive NJ medical cannabis. Most are not able to afford their full recommended dosage as it is. Some are dying in unnecessary discomfort. The average amount purchased per month is less than 1/2 ounce (as per DOH), a fraction of the allowed dosage. This is deadly serious. Patients and their families are currently embarking on a public video campaign to bring their misery into the public light. It would be nice to have an explanation as to why this is happening when home cultivation could have prevented the majority of that suffering in the first place.
My domestic partner Jim Miller is the co-founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ (CMMNJ), a 501c3 non-profit organization since 2004. He will be accompanying me to any meetings as he is the source of my information and can offer accuracy as to the history of this problem.
If you need to know anything else please let me know. My reply will be immediate this time.
Regards, Cathi Then Cathi Sent on Wed, Mar 25 at 4:32 PM So Mitchell, No reply? Not totally unexpected. Your lack of reply to my last email only adds to Dr. Conaway's "email trail" that well illustrates a contention held by many patients. Health Committee Chairman Conaway will not answer a valid obvious question that many sick and dying patients have had on their minds for a decade. Now, at least they will be able to point to the letpatientsgrownj.com website and Assemblyman Conaway’s "email trail" posted there by "Cathi D." from Mount Laurel. That is me of course. And now, that email trail may be used as an example for other patients who have unresponsive legislators as well. Perhaps they will be more inclined to respond to medical cannabis patients who are also constituents. Thank you for that? I am sending a separate email immediately following this one that you really will want to read. It is about how the current pandemic is affecting patients in the absence of home cultivation. Other patients will be sending the same email to their legislators as well, so you might want to know how to respond if another assemblyman tells you that he/she has been approached with this idea about how to help medical cannabis patients who cannot afford their medicine. That remedy of course was almost accomplished a decade ago, if not for Chairman Conaway’s omission of home cultivation provisions that had already passed in the senate. I know that Dr. Conaway must be busy, but continuing to dismiss home cultivation out of hand without an explanation must stop. Please finally recognize the extent of how much medicine is not being consumed by deserving patients because of its cost prohibitive nature for them. Your constituent, Catherine D. That of course was immediately followed by sending the LPGNJ "copy and paste" form letter. No salutation. No sign off. As form letter as a form letter can be. I am a medical cannabis patient and I am YOUR constituent. I have extreme concern that needs your immediate attention. The current pandemic is adding to an already untenable situation for New Jersey’s medical cannabis patient population. Many NJ medical cannabis patients have been chronically unable to afford an uninterrupted supply of their physician's recommended amount of their medicine since our program began. That is primarily due to the mandated “cash only” payment policy for overly expensive medicine that insurance companies do not have to cover. Keep in mind that dispensaries are considered “essential services” during our state of emergency. NJ Dispensaries still run low and limit amounts of favored and effective strains. Currently, under pandemic considerations, normally crowded dispensaries are facing overcrowded conditions that make social distancing especially hard on the many patients with limited mobility. The “home delivery” provision passed under “Jake's Law” almost 9 months ago has yet to provide its first delivery. Private transfer of medicine between patients would allow patients to help patients, but it is illegal. Many patients will be running out of medicine due to these reasons and additional considerations that will continue to emerge from the new national/world pandemic. Financial considerations due to the pandemic that further limit cannabis purchases are currently increasing the chances of patient setbacks with the very physical indications that allowed them into the program in the first place. The only current legal method of acquisition, through pick-up by patient or registered caregiver, is increasing the chances of patient exposure to the Corona virus during current waiting times of several hours. As patients start to lose their jobs during our economic shutdown, they will become increasingly vulnerable to medical relapse due to insufficient medication. Currently, states are considering letting doctors and nurses graduate early to be on the front lines. We are making temporary hospitals out of whatever we can, wherever we can, however we can. National Guard units are being deployed. We are considering commandeering private businesses to get jobs done. Everything is supposed to be on the table. As things get worse, and they will, restrictions that impede pandemic progress will temporarily loosen even more in an effort to save lives that can be saved if we act immediately and forcefully. Unfortunately, this new state/national “all hands on deck” mentality seems to leave medical cannabis patients out of the current push for “out of the box” considerations. Medical cannabis patients have been saying that they feel as if they have been treated as second class patients by many legislators in NJ for a long time. The truth will finally be visible through legislators’ responses to this plea. New Jersey owes it to medical cannabis patients to seriously consider ways to allow registered patients to start growing up to 6 cannabis plants immediately, just as the NJ Senate voted they should be allowed to grow on Feb. 23, 2009 by a vote of 22-16. Maybe couple that with allowing transfer of cannabis between registered patients without money changing hands? Could this be accomplished with an emergency executive action. You tell me. We both know that it could be fast tracked, legislatively speaking. What perceived adverse effects that some legislators will say "might" happen could possibly be worse that what IS about to happen to some patients if we don't do this? That is not a rhetorical question. It is the one question that I am asking you to directly answer in your response to me along with anything else you would care to say. It is the crux of this letter. Time will provide the answer for all to see one way or the other. And unfortunately for patients it won’t be a long time. This email and your reply, or lack thereof, will be posted on letpatientsgrownj.com. Hopefully, many legislators will get this same letter from their constituent/patients, and their responses will be posted as well. Transparency is the new order of the day. How you handle this request will be accessible to anybody who might want to know. That is the purpose of the website. Please give me your immediate thoughts on this as you begin an actual “risk/benefit” analysis. I don’t need to tell you how important it is to sick and dying patients for you to stay ahead of this new curve.