N.J.’s medical marijuana chief douses senator’s pipe dream of legal weed for sale immediately after the election

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Not long after state Sen. Nick Scutari claimed on Tuesday legislators and regulators may “be able to flip the switch and people might be able to get marijuana, legally, right after the vote,” the head of the state medical cannabis program doused that pipe dream with a bucket of cold water.

“(Some dispensaries) literally do not even have the space to accommodate the level of demand that personal-use sales would bring,” said Jeff Brown, who helms the Department of Health’s Medicinal Marijuana Program. “I could say unequivocally that opening up sales even a few months after the election would be a disaster and would really hurt access for patients who need this as medicine. My number one priority is to ensure that the patients have access — that’s going to be our priority first and foremost.”

Since the passage of Jake Honig’s Law, the medical program continues to grow in terms of patients and demand — about 7,000 patients per month on average and nearly 95,000 patients enrolled in total — but the program continues to face supply challenges for just the current patient population due to the small number of operational cultivators and canopy space.

Scutari, in his comments during an interview with NJ Cannabis Insider streamed live on NJ.com’s Facebook page Tuesday, that “(the) currently operating medical cannabis dispensaries would have an opportunity to sell to the general public for people over 21, if they can certify that they have enough product to satisfy their patients that they’re already treating.”

Brown, who also participated in a closed portion of the webinar, tamped down the senator’s suggestion at the time. He said he wants to keep an open dialogue with legislators and make the program’s priorities clear to medical patients and Garden State citizens as a whole.

“Inventories at alternative treatment centers are increasing, too, but it’s uneven,” he said. “We have some that are expanding capacity and then we have others that are simply maintaining and have really no room to expand cultivation in their current footprints.”

For the past six months, Brown said, the medical cannabis program has averaged about only 2,100 pounds in sales per month, rising to nearly 2,500 in September with a similar trend in October. Based on an average of the patient population, patients typically only buy a half-ounce each month, he said.

As of this past Friday, Brown said, there were about 10,000 pounds of medical cannabis in the market — about evenly split between flower and extracts, though flower tends to have higher sales. That means there’s enough medical cannabis to last about four months, given current sales trends and more limited choices for patients.

Part of the challenges dispensaries face, Brown said, is the small indoor canopy. There’s a dozen cultivators in New Jersey, but the average dispensary only has a canopy of

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Senators Want to Halt Army Combat Fitness Test Rollout

Two senators are asking other lawmakers on Capitol Hill to support a push to pause implementation of the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which they say sets unrealistic standards for some soldiers.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Tuesday, asking them to keep a measure in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would halt the rollout of the long-awaited ACFT. Military.com obtained a copy of the letter, which was first reported on by The Washington Post.

Gillibrand, of New York, and Blumenthal, of Connecticut, say an independent study is needed to examine whether the test is fair to both men and women. They also say the ACFT lowers standards for young male soldiers while setting unrealistic requirements for those serving in fields with few physical demands, such as medical personnel, judge advocates or cyber warriors.

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“Since the Department of the Army has initiated the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), significant concerns have been raised regarding the data used to develop the test, initial test scores, and logistical issues,” the letter states. “The ACFT will determine the career path and success of all soldiers currently serving, yet many information gaps and unknowns remain.”

Army officials did not respond to questions about the letter. Units were authorized to begin taking the ACFT on Oct. 1 after the test was delayed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The scores soldiers receive on the new test won’t count until 2022, however, and will be for data collection only.

Still, Gillibrand and Blumenthal say the ACFT rollout is “premature.” They point to gender and age gaps in the Baseline Soldier Physical Readiness Requirements Study, which the Army conducted to identify fitness requirements that best measure demands of combat.

“The average participant was 24 years old and male,” the letter states. “During Phase II, only 14.3% of test participants were female, and in Phase III, only 10.5% of participants were female. This is not even representative of the total Army force.”

And while the study determined the leg tuck is not a “significant predictive variable,” the letter adds, it was still chosen to be one of the ACFT’s six events. The leg tuck leads to the most test failures, they wrote, yet the Army “has failed to show [it] has any nexus to the skills necessary for combat.”

“It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered,” the senators said. “Soldiers’ careers depend on it and the continued lethality of our force requires it.”

Last year, slides leaked on social media showing female soldiers were failing the ACFT at much higher rates than men. About a third of male soldiers were failing the test at the time, while 84% of women were failing.

Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com shortly after the leak

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Senators call for pause to Army’s new Combat Fitness Test

Oct. 21 (UPI) — Two senators said Wednesday they have called for a delay in implementing the U.S. Army’s Combat Fitness Test, citing a possible detriment to creating a diverse force.

A letter signed by Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent a letter to the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees warning that rollout of the revised test was premature and deserved additional study.

“Significant concerns have been raised regarding the data used to develop the test, initial test scores, and logistical issues,” the senators wrote. “The ACFT will determine the career path and success of all soldiers currently serving, yet many information gaps and unknowns remain.”

It suggested that the ACFT could adversely impact soldiers’ professional prospects, upset recruitment efforts and disproportionally affect women in the Army, and noted that few women were included in early testing groups.

“In 2019, the Army identified the six events of the ACFT and began conducting field tests within 63 battalions across the organization,” the senators wrote. “Preliminary data was leaked showing an overall failure rate of 84 percent for females and 30 percent for males within these battalions.”

The test is an attempt by the Army to establish effective but gender-neutral standards for soldiers’ fitness and readiness, and replaces Army previous fitness tests which clearly displayed a bias but were less rigorous.

Six events are involved in the new test, including a dead lift, weighted ball throw and a “leg tuck,” in which soldiers lift themselves up from a pullup bar using their arm, core and leg muscles.

The leg tuck is largely responsible for the 65 percent failure rate for women and the 10 percent failure rate for men.

The letter from Gillibrand and Blumenthal cited a University of Iowa study that showing that the removal of the leg-tuck could significantly improve success rates. The letter said the leg tuck is “the same event which has no proven predictive value to military occupation.”

It also noted that the previously used Army Physical Fitness Test required no equipment other than a stopwatch, while “the ACFT requires approximately $3,000 worth of equipment to put one individual through the test.”

Gillibrand and Blumenthal added that the test is irrelevant, and possibly damaging, to the careers of Army lawyers, cybersecurity specialists and other non-combat enlistees.

The senators recommend that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act include a provision allowing Congress to delay use of the ACFT until it is independently reviewed.

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Senators ask for pause on Army’s new fitness test, call it ‘premature’

Two senators are asking for a delay in the Army’s implementation of its new combat fitness test, or ACFT, pending an independent study of how it will effect critical career fields and soldiers deployed to austere outposts.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked in a letter sent Tuesday to the House and Senate armed services committees for the ACFT roll-out to be paused and studied.

“We acknowledge that the ACFT 2.0 is a work in progress, but we have considerable concerns regarding the negative impact it may already be having on so many careers,” the senators said in the letter, a copy of which was provided to Army Times. “It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered.”

The six-event ACFT is a noticeably more difficult test than that which it replaces, with higher failure rates recorded among women. The increased difficultly is often attributed to the ACFT’s emphasis on core and upper body strength through exercises like the deadlift and hanging leg-tuck.

Army cadets perform the three-repetition deadlift, the first of the six events of the Army Combat Fitness Test. (Eric Bartelt/Army)

The letter, first reported by the Washington Post, noted that Army data shows “a consistent” 65 percent failure rate for women and 10 percent failure rate for men. The letter cited a University of Iowa study that showed eliminating the leg-tuck would significantly reduce failure rates.

Gillibrand and Blumenthal said there are “significant concerns” regarding the data used to develop the ACFT that trace back to a study conducted several years ago.

That study demonstrated the leg-tuck was not a significant predictive variable of how a soldier would perform their duties, but was still included in the six-event test regardless. The study’s test group also underrepresented women, the senators added, with the average participant being a 24-year-old man.

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Senators urge Pentagon to suspend implementation of Army’s new fitness test

“We have considerable concerns regarding the negative impact [the test] may already be having on so many careers,” they said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered. Soldiers’ careers depend on it and the continued lethality of our force requires it.”

The senators asked the committee leaders to ensure a measure that would suspend rollout of the test until an independent study can be conducted is included in the final version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense bill. The provision appeared in the Senate-passed version of the bill, but not in the House version.

Lawmakers are expected to convene to reconcile the two versions of the bill after the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The test has become a charged issue within the Army as it pits the service’s effort to establish gender-blind standards and improve soldier readiness against fears it could pose an additional challenge to retaining skilled troops and compound obstacles faced by underrepresented populations within the force. Critics say it could have a disproportionate impact on women, who make up 15 percent of the Army but occupy few leadership positions.

Army data shows that, 18 months after small cohorts of soldiers started taking the test on a provisional basis, women continue to fail at dramatically higher rates than men. In the second quarter of 2020, 54 percent of women failed the test, compared to 7 percent of men.

The stark gender gap comes as Pentagon leaders express an urgent desire to rectify the military’s legacy of racial and gender inequity, issues that have long dogged the force but were given new prominence when race-related unrest gripped the nation this summer.

The test consists of six events, including a dead lift, weighted ball throw and, most problematically for women who have taken it to date, a “leg tuck,” which requires soldiers to lift themselves up from a pullup bar using their arm, core and leg muscles.

The test has different requirements for different career fields, but critics say that even the least demanding standards could remain out of reach for some. They also say consistently lower scores for female soldiers, who are typically lighter than men and thus must lift weights that are heavier relative to their body weight, could hold women back.

While Army leaders have said the test won’t impact evaluations until as early as 2022, it is expected to eventually affect enlisted personnel’s promotion potential and officers’ careers.

Army officials say the test is a product of years of research and is designed to better prepare troops for conditions they would encounter in combat. It places a higher emphasis on muscular strength than the previous Army fitness test, which was adjusted for age and gender and included pushups, pullups and a two-mile run.

Officials have also said troops can do an alternate to the leg tuck, a two-minute plank, while the test

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