Recent changes to a medical cannabis program in the U.S. state of New Jersey is fueling a boost in patient applications, with expectations patient numbers will more than double from current levels.
Dr. Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey’s Health Commissioner, recently stated changes to rules in the program would enable it to grow to 40,000 to 50,000 people, up from the current 20,000.
In fact, Dr. Sheereef anticipates even larger numbers long term.
“We’re seeing in states like Michigan over 100,000 patients with a similar profile of conditions,” he said. “We expect to see similar numbers.”
Sweeping changes were announced in late March, after 20 recommendations were made by a review that Governor Phil Murphy said he would act on. The review was triggered the death of a 7-year-old boy in the state from cancer. His parents had been battling for medical cannabis access.
Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, including the addition of anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, musculoskeletal disorder chronic pain and chronic visceral pain to the list of qualifying conditions.
Opioid use disorder is also covered under the broad category titled “chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders”.
1,000 individuals had registered in relation to the five new categories of medical conditions just last month. A total of 1,500 patients joined the program in April, bringing the total to 20,000.
“We’re adding 100 new patients every day,” said Dr. Elnahal early this month. “This demonstrates that there was pent up demand. People with chronic pain now have the option of medicinal marijuana instead of opioids, and more than 100 strains are available.”
As at May 1, approximately 600 physicians were participating in the state’s program.
Under current laws, the maximum amount of medical cannabis that can be purchased by patients is 2 ounces in a 30 day period. However, the Department of Health has recommended increasing the monthly limit from two to four ounces. The Department is also proposing to repeal the regulation that establishes a 10% THC limit, however this is subject to the Department’s regulatory process, which includes a public comment period.
More information on New Jersey’s program can be found here.