The New Jersey Department of Health has announced amended medical marijuana rules that are intended to expand access and eliminate bureaucratic barriers.
“These rules solidify key program reforms to ensure greater patient access to this effective therapy, “Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal said. “With these changes, the department will be able to add conditions more rapidly, remove barriers for minors and increase the supply of product available.”
The changes come as Republicans are now criticizing the Murphy administration for not doing enough to expand access to medical marijuana while they believe, placing too much emphasis on legalizing recreational pot.
The GOP charged that the Democrats have failed to pass legislation helping the nearly 50,000 medical marijuana patients across the state in an attempt to pass recreational marijuana.
“Medical marijuana expansion should have been passed months ago, but instead Democrats are prioritizing politics over patients,” said Assembly Republicans Hal Wirths, R-Sussex. “New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is too expensive for patients who have to pay out of pocket, and there aren’t enough dispensaries for people to conveniently access their medicine. The legislation would fix that if that were actually a priority.”
The administration has codified the following changes that are already in effect:
- Reducing the registration fee for qualifying patients and their caregivers from $200 to $100
- Adding seniors and military veterans to those eligible for the reduced registration fee of $20
- Authorizing qualifying patients to designate up to two primary caregivers instead of just one
- Reflecting the addition of seven “debilitating medical conditions” including PTSD, by statutory enactment; and six new conditions (anxiety, chronic pain of visceral origin, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraines, Tourette syndrome, and Opioid Use Disorder)
- Elevating the Medicinal Marijuana Program to division status within the Department of Health
- Expanding the forms of medical marijuana available in New Jersey to include oil-based formulations, like vape cartridges
Additionally, these changes will be made:
- Creating a separate permitting system for cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing marijuana for medical purposes, which would increase the available supply of, and patient access to, usable marijuana and allow for specialization in the market.
- Streamlining the process to petition for the addition of “debilitating medical conditions” by removing the requirement that petitions first be referred to the Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel.
Removing the requirement of psychiatric evaluation as a condition of physician certification of minors as qualifying patients
There are currently 46,300 patients, 950 doctors and 1,850 caregivers participating in the program.