The medical marijuana program in New Jersey could soon expand, with the NJ Department of Health reportedly thinking about allowing new medical conditions to qualify patients for medical pot. Anyone with a suggestion for a medical condition that ought to qualify for medical marijuana treatment can visit the New Jersey Health Department website and download a form. When submitting the form to the NJ Health Department, you can list the medical conditions you think should be included for consideration. The forms must be submitted via certified mail anytime between August 1 and August 31, 2016.
A medical review panel is expected to evaluate the suggested medical conditions and then provide recommendations to the Department of Health. Depending on the panel’s recommendations, the NJ medical marijuana law could undergo its first major change based on public input since 2010, when the State of New Jersey first launched its medical marijuana program.
Treating Chronic Health Conditions with Medical Marijuana
A person who is caught in possession of even a small amount of marijuana in NJ can face serious drug crime charges. However, the state’s medical marijuana law allows for an exception to the otherwise strict drug offense laws: an individual with a qualifying chronic health condition can avoid arrest and prosecution for possessing marijuana that is used to treat the illness or medical condition.
There remain a number of medical conditions that do not currently qualify a person for medical marijuana. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not listed as a medical condition for the NJ medical marijuana program. Although several state lawmakers in Trenton have pushed for PTSD to be added to the official list, attempts to get the medical condition added to the medical marijuana list have failed thus far.
The medical conditions that can be legally treated with medical marijuana in the State of New Jersey include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Terminal cancer
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Muscular dystrophy
- Inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease)
- Any other terminal illness
A patient who is dealing with a serious health problem, such as a seizure disorder or glaucoma, and whose condition is not improving through conventional treatment may also qualify for medical marijuana. Additionally, a person diagnosed with HIV/AIDS may also qualify for the medical marijuana program if their treatment plan is otherwise ineffective and is causing severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, or vomiting.
NJ.com researched the New Jersey medical marijuana program and found that there are currently 8,162 registered patients and 472 caregivers. A caregiver is a person who passed an official state background check and who has been authorized to pick up marijuana from registered medical marijuana dispensaries. Caregivers are legally allowed to drop off medical marijuana at patients’ residences.
If a caregiver has not been officially licensed and approved by the State of New Jersey, they could wind up being criminally charged for simple possession of marijuana or even distribution of marijuana. The drug crime laws on the books in NJ are incredibly strict, meaning that a conviction on marijuana possession charges or marijuana distribution charges could result in a lengthy prison sentence.
At this time, there are only five medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey, with a sixth facility set to open in Secaucus at some point in 2016. The five medical marijuana dispensaries that are currently running include facilities in Montclair, Bellmawr, Cranbury, Egg Harbor, and Woodbridge.