One Step Closer To Expansion Of NJ Medical Marijuana Program

November 14, 2017
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New qualifying conditions approved by the New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel.

Patients with chronic pain, anxiety, and migraines will have to wait a little longer to participate in the NJ medical marijuana program. The New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel (MMRP) recently voted to approve several new qualifying conditions, but the Department of Public Health now has 180 days to render a final decision.

Expansion of NJ Medical Marijuana Program On Horizon

Photo courtesy of Get Budding (Unsplash.com)

Adding New Qualifying Conditions to New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is one of the strictest in the country. To participate in the program, a patient must suffer from an approved debilitating medical condition. The current list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana includes, among others, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Multiple Sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, certain terminal illnesses, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The process of adding new qualifying conditions is lengthy and complex. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 8:64-5.2, the inclusion of new qualifying condition must be approved by the MMRP and the Commissioner. When making a recommendation, the primary consideration is whether the medical condition and/or the treatment thereof is debilitating; and whether marijuana is more likely than not to have the potential to be beneficial to treat or alleviate the debilitation associated with the medical condition and/or the treatment thereof.

Almost four months ago, the MMRP recommended that the Commissioner qualify dozens of additional debilitating conditions falling within the categories of chronic pain, migraine, anxiety, and Tourette’s Syndrome for inclusion in the State’s medicinal marijuana program. The MMRP rejected the inclusion of conditions related to the categories of asthma and chronic fatigue.

What’s Next for Medical Marijuana Patients?

The 60-day public comment period on the MMRP’s recommendations ended on September 25, 2017. On October 25, 2017, the panel voted 5-1 to grant final approval of the new conditions. It again voted unanimously to deny the addition of asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Now, Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett has up to six months to decide whether to approve the panel’s recommendation. The final hurdle is significant given that Bennett, a who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, has opposed cannabis legalization in the past.

However, given that the deadline will occur after the New Jersey gubernatorial election, Bennett may no longer be in the post at that time. In addition, if Phil Murphy is the next governor, an even broader expansion of the NJ medical marijuana program could be on the horizon.

This article is a part of a series pertaining to cannabis legalization in New Jersey and the United States at large. Prior articles in this series are below:

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, at 201-806-3364.

Disclaimer: Possession, use, distribution, and/or sale of cannabis is a Federal crime and is subject to related Federal policy. Legal advice provided by Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC is designed to counsel clients regarding the validity, scope, meaning, and application of existing and/or proposed cannabis law. Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC will not provide assistance in circumventing Federal or state cannabis law or policy, and advice provided by our office should not be construed as such.