This week saw the New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Review Panel make initial recommendations to the health commissioner approving a wide spread of new qualifying conditions to the program while denying two.
New Jersey has long been a black hole for medical cannabis progress, this reality has been backboned by outgoing Governor Chris Christie who’s always worked on closing the bridges to easier access for Garden State, albeit, to his credit, he did add PTSD as a qualifying condition last year.
These days are quickly looking more and more numbered. While Christie has been working on his tan and making reputable one handed foul ball catches without spilling his novelty cup, every Democrat looking to replace him in the governor’s mansion has come out as pro-pot to at least some extent.
Basically, the recommendations of the review panel are just a prelude to wider expected reform in the state. Nevertheless, they’re huge for a large chunk of people. Look at the addition of 34 types of chronic pain conditions ranging from fibromyalgia to spinal fusions. In that group, Arthritis alone adds 1,590,000 residents to the number of potential medical cannabis patients in the state according to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control.
Additional widely prevalent conditions added include migraines, Tourette’s and anxiety. Combined with the various pain conditions, it’s not unreasonable to guess the number of qualifying patients in Jersey could jump be over 2,000,000 people should the recommendations survive.
“We are glad to see that the panel took the testimony of experts and the petitions of New Jerseyans seriously in making their recommendation to add chronic pain and other conditions to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Many people across the state will be helped by the addition of chronic pain. And it comes at a particularly important moment.”
Scotti noted that data shows states with medical marijuana programs that allow access for individuals with chronic pain have reduced dependence on opioids.
“As New Jersey continues dealing with problematic opioid use in our state, expanding the medical marijuana program to include chronic pain is a real solution that can be immediately implemented,” said Scotti.
The New Jersey Policy Office of the Drug Policy Alliance led the campaign to pass the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in 2010. DPA continues to lead the coalition advocating for improvements to the state’s program which took about two years to get dispensaries open after the law passed. DPA was one of the main petitioners supporting the addition of chronic pain to the program and collected letters of support from various medical professionals and New Jersey residents dealing with long term pain. They also organized expert testimony before the review panel at its February meeting which led to this first draft of recommendations.
The panel’s first wave of recommendations are now under the scrutiny of a 60-day comment period and any changes will be heard in a public hearing before the final recommendations are sent off to the health commissioner. The health commissioner will make the final call on which of the recommended new conditions will make it to the state’s medical marijuana program.
New Jersey NORML Executive Director Evan Nison told us activist are already focused on far wider goals as they believe the medical program had failed patients over the years.
“We’re encouraging the state to expand medical and would like to see decriminalization as well, but at this point we’re focused on working towards full adult-use legalization,” Nison said. “Medical has not worked for patients in NJ thus far, and the legislature, population, and gubernatorial front runner are all ready to repeal cannabis prohibition statewide. It’s the best thing we can do right now, for medical cannabis patients and the state as a whole.”
The two conditions denied by the review board were asthma and chronic fatigue.
TELL US, what condition do you treat with medical marijuana?