New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has announced a list of reforms to the state’s medical cannabis program. These changes include lower fees for medical cannabis patients and caregivers, as well as five additional qualifying medical conditions.
Murphy is also proposing to increase each patient’s monthly product limit, as well as to allow patients who are receiving hospice care to be qualified for an unlimited supply of medical cannabis.
We are changing the medical cannabis program’s restrictive culture. New Jersey residents would no longer need to “jump through hoops” just to be able to access medical cannabis. – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
According to Gov. Phil Murphy, they are changing the medical cannabis program’s restrictive culture. He said that New Jersey residents would no longer need to “jump through hoops” just to be able to access the drug, because patients should not have to be treated as criminals.
Murphy explained that some of the changes are going to take some time to get implemented, but he assures that they are committed to getting these changes done for the benefit of all residents who need access to medical cannabis.
The changes to the medical cannabis program were based on the recommendations of a Department of Health panel commissioned by Murphy. The new governor had signed an executive order calling on the state health department in January to review the existing cannabis program.
Five additional qualifying medical conditions
Under the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, medical cannabis may be used by patients suffering from any of these qualifying conditions:
cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, seizure disorder, severe muscle spasms, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and any terminal illness , which is defined as an illness for which a doctor certifies that the patient will die within a year).
The law also allows the state health department to add other illnesses to this list of qualifying conditions.
So, pursuant to the health department’s recommendation, Murphy announced that, effective immediately, patients who are also suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety, migraines, chronic visceral pain, and chronic pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders can use medical cannabis.
Other immediate changes to the cannabis program
Murphy also announced that the registration fee for patients who need to use medical cannabis has also been cut to half – from $200 to $100. Seniors and veterans will also be eligible for a $20 discount.
Additionally, the one-caregiver-per-patient limit has also been lifted. And the state’s five treatment centers are now allowed to open satellite locations.
Moreover, Murphy is allowing doctors who prescribe medical cannabis to not appear on a public registry. This, he said, would take away the stigma that doctors who prescribe the drug seem to be facing.
Further plans for the medical cannabis program
Murphy’s progressive move comes roughly a decade after New Jersey implemented its medical cannabis program. The program was signed into law by then outgoing governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat like Murphy, but was slowly implemented under the term of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Murphy is planning to add more changes to the state’s cannabis law.
For one, he is currently recommending that the monthly product limit for patients be raised from two ounces to four ounces. He also wants to allow patients in hospice care to obtain an unlimited supply of cannabis products, as well as to allow adult patients to have access to cannabis in edible form.
Furthermore, Murphy wants to allow the current non-profit treatment centers in New Jersey to convert to for-profit businesses.
And because there is a need for the health department to address the problem on cannabis supply, Murphy is proposing changes to the current regulations that would permit treatment centers to specialize in specific areas such as cultivation, manufacturing, or dispensing.
Currently, New Jersey’s medical cannabis program has 18,000 participants. Murphy acknowledges that this number is just a fraction of the more than 200,000 patients in Michigan who are under a similar program.
Murphy also stated that he would like to see opioid addiction eventually added to the list of approved medical conditions. He believes that cannabis is “an offensive weapon” they could use to fight the opioid epidemic.
Murphy is also pushing to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis.
(Primary photo grabbed from Gov. Phil Murphy’s Twitter account.)