There are now 34,000 patients registered to access medical marijuana in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has expanded to about 34,000 participating patients, nearly doubling its enrollment since the beginning of the year. According to new data released by the state’s Health Department, 9,000 new patients have been added in the last three months alone.
The administration of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a first-term Democrat, attributes the program’s recent surge in growth to him adding five new qualifying conditions for medical marijuana only a few months after he took office in January.
In March, Murphy added:
- Tourette syndrome
- Chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders
- Chronic visceral pain
The move bumped the state’s total number of qualifying conditions up to 17.
The department is also considering adding opioid-use disorder as a condition for which marijuana can be recommended, according to Health Department Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. Research indicates that cannabis can help patients stick with opioid addiction treatments. As of now, opioid use disorder has to be associated with chronic pain due to musculoskeletal disorders to qualify.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is nearly a decade old, but had been criticized for its slow development. Murphy had pledged to expand the state’s medical marijuana program after it had stagnated under former Gov. Chris Christie.
In addition to adding qualifying conditions, Murphy also cut registration costs in half for patients, and offered a $20 rate for seniors, veterans, and those on disability. He also cut the wait time for identification cards to an average of two weeks, and made it so physicians interested in recommending cannabis would no longer need to appear on a public registry.
The program now has 800 cannabis doctors, up from 500, who are now participating in the program and recommending patients marijuana.
The state is also considering doubling the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to 12 to make access it easier for patients.
Murphy is also committed to legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey. While he had hoped to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana by the end of the year, the details of the adult use measure is still being finalized by state’s Legislature.
Medical Marijuana in New Jersey
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program allows qualified patients to buy and possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana per month. Patients are limited to obtaining cannabis through licensed dispensaries, which the state calls alternative treatment centers. Home personal cultivation is not permitted.
To qualify for medical marijuana, patients must be a New Jersey resident, be diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating medical condition, and obtain a recommendation from a physician who they have a bona fide relationship with.
Approved debilitating medical conditions as of now include:
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Cancer (includes associated chronic pain and/or severe nausea)
- Chronic Pain Related to Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Chronic Visceral Pain
- Crohn’s Disease
- HIV/AIDS (includes associated chronic pain and/or severe nausea)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Seizure and/or Spasticity Disorders
- Tourette Syndrome
- Any terminal illness if a doctor has determined the patient will die within a year
Patients can register for the program online through the New Jersey Department of Health.
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