HomeNewsTough Times For New Jersey's Medical Cannabis Program

Tough Times For New Jersey’s Medical Cannabis Program

New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market sales were well up during the first quarter, but it’s come at a high cost to the state’s medicinal cannabis program.

The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) reports recreational sales for the first quarter of 2024 totaled more than $201 million, which is a 38% increase compared to the same period last year.

“The significant growth in sales year over year is an indication of the strong potential of New Jersey’s cannabis market,” said Jeff Brown, the Commission’s executive director. “We anticipate that as even more dispensaries open across the state, new brands are introduced to the market, and cannabis becomes less stigmatized, sales numbers will continue to go up.”

Adult-use cannabis was legalized in New Jersey on January 1, 2021 and licensed recreational sales began in the state in April 2022. While recreational sales may be going gangbusters, it’s a different story for medical cannabis – which has been legal in the state since 2019.

The program hit its peak in May 2022, with 129,369 registered patients. Numbers have gone downhill ever since, and in April had plummeted to 80,042 patients. This is even though retail sales of medical cannabis are not subject to the state’s Sales and Use Tax and there are other benefits including higher purchase limits and discounts.

In an effort to maintain or boost numbers, the NJ- CRC decided to slash registration and renewal fees for enrolled patients and their caregivers. Fees for physical cards were reduced to just $10 for two years – down from as much as $50 a year – and free digital-only ID cards are being provided.

Mr. Brown said at the time NJ-CRC was doing everything in its power to eliminate as many barriers as possible “to ensure those who can benefit from cannabis treatment remain in the program.”

So, why does the drain continue? In comments to MarijuanaMoment, Mr. Brown reportedly says:

“… patients are seemingly leaving the program because they cannot afford the fees they are being charged by some doctors”.

These out of pocket fees can be as much as $200, and visits may be required in as little as every three months.

On the bright side, it would appear the adult-use boom is having an impact on unregulated channels.

“The rising sales figures demonstrate a shift in consumer behavior as more people are choosing the safety and reliability of the regulated market over untested or questionable products,” said NJ-CRC Chair Dianna Houenou.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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