New Jersey’s medicinal cannabis program is somewhat a victim of its success; but Governor Phil Murphy is taking steps to rectify the situation.
The number has jumped significantly again, to 25,000 patients by early this month. 1,000 caregivers and 700 physicians are also participating in the program.
A major issue that has developed along with registrations is a lack of supply and dispensaries – currently there are only 6 dispensaries in the entire state; an average of around 4,250 patients per dispensary.
While those businesses would be doing a brisk trade, it has also led to issues with supplies of certain strains.
The Murphy Administration yesterday announced it is seeking up to six new ATC (Alternative Treatment Center) applicants, which will be licensed to grow, process and dispense medical cannabis. The new entities will operate in the northern, central and southern regions of New Jersey, with 2 dispensaries in each region.
“We look forward to the opening of six new dispensaries so we can ensure that all qualifying patients who want access to medicinal marijuana can have it,’’ said the governor.
While the six currently operating ATCs are not eligible to apply, these entities will be able to add additional sites for cultivating, manufacturing and dispensing – but not right now. A date is yet to be set as to when existing players will be able to apply to expand operations.
Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, M.D has also been busy over the past few weeks beating the drum among physicians; dispelling medical cannabis myths and encouraging them to participate in the state’s program.
Commissioner Elnahal also took a crack at the feds’ stance on medical marijuana recently, tweeting:
“Marijuana needs to be descheduled at the federal level. Enough is enough. Patients on #MedicalMarijuana deserve better. Until then, we are stuck with:
-Scant research funding
-Limited to no access in hospitals/nursing homes
-High costs for patients”
Medical marijuana was legalized in New Jersey in January 2010. The program’s evolution met with resistance from previous Governor Chris Christie who called the medical program a “front for legalization” of marijuana in 2014. However, under pressure, Governor Christie signed a bill into law in 2016 adding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. Since Governor Murphy took the state’s reins, development of the program has greatly accelerated.