New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on an expansion to the state's medical marijuana program this week. By doing so he has made it easier for patients to gain access to what had previously been one of the most prohibitive/restrictive medical marijuana program(s) in the country. In doing so he had added new conditions that doctors can recommend be treated with medical cannabis.
Chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraines, anxiety, chronic visceral pain and tourettes syndrome all count among the acceptable conditions to access the program now.
Murphy, a long-time proponent for marijuana regulation and legalization had previously went on the books as saying he would have recreational marijuana legislation passed within his first 100 days of office, a task he does not seem likely to accomplish. Here however, he has shown his affinity for this tiny plant once more.
In addition to the new acceptable conditions Mr. Murphy has slashed the application fee in half, lowering the fee to $100. He has also passed legislation allowing the existing five dispensaries to open satellite locations.
There is advice to proceed with caution here as Evan Nison, executive director of NORML New Jersey said the companies should wait until the patient pool deepens a bit before expanding their operations, lest they risk losing money.
To date only 18,574 patients and 536 physicians participate in New Jerseys medical marijuana program, which is tiny compared to other similarly sized states.
“We want to have working businesses,” Nison said. “Businesses that are making money and not losing money.
“Because that's also needed for patients. We need as many retail locations as possible for more patient access”
Bolstering the medical marijuana program is a fine short-term move for New Jersey’s industry, Nison said, but the more lucrative business opportunity will come in the form of a recreational market.
Murphy has promised to sign an adult-use legalization bill by April.
In the meantime, it’s still up in the air how the MMJ market will function with the coming recreational program.
“We’re still not exactly sure from an industry perspective how the medical system and adult-use system will interact or overlay, or how licenses will work,” Nison said.
But it’s something to look forward to.
“Legalization in New Jersey is very exciting,” Nison added.
“It’s marijuana law reform. People understanding that our marijuana laws are broken.”