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New Jersey Greatly Expands Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions and Dispensary Access

On the road to total legalization, the Garden State will welcome thousands more residents into its medical cannabis program and make it easier than ever to purchase state-sanctioned pot.

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Governor Phil Murphy is following through on his campaign promise to bring cannabis reform to New Jersey. The recently inaugurated Democrat announced a far-reaching expansion for the Garden State's medical marijuana program, adding five qualifying conditions, encouraging dispensary growth, and reducing patient costs.

According to NJ.com, New Jersey residents suffering from migraines, anxiety, Tourette's syndrome, and multiple forms of chronic pain will now be able to legally obtain a doctor's recommendation for cannabis, opening the state's medical marijuana program to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new patients.

"Patients should be treated as patients, not criminals. We will be guided by science," Murphy said at a Tuesday press conference announcing the cannabis reform measures. "No more will patients be failed by a system that has been prevented from delivering the compassionate care it promised nearly a decade ago."

In addition to the new qualifying conditions, Murphy's plan will immediately reduce the biennial out-of-pocket administrative fees for medical marijuana patients from $200 to $100, raise the state's monthly marijuana purchase limit from two ounces to four, and allow any licensed doctor to recommend cannabis, a change from the current system in which doctors must enroll in a medical marijuana registry. Like the stigma of cannabis use, Garden State doctors say that there is also a stigma attached to recommending the controversial plant, and that appearing on a public registry has stopped some physicians from participating in the program.

With thousands of new potentially qualified patients and doctors, Murphy also announced expansions for the state's five operating dispensaries, including the permitting of satellite retail, cultivation, and production facilities to meet the expected spike in demand. Murphy also recommended licensing more Garden State pot shops and producers, as well as giving local ganjapreneurs the ability to operate as for-profit businesses, instead of their currently required nonprofit designation.

During his campaign for governor last year, Murphy time and again promised to bring cannabis legalization to New Jersey. While it has taken slightly longer to end prohibition than originally planned, Tuesday's medical marijuana expansion is a good start.

At the recent press conference, Murphy compared New Jersey's 18,000 currently enrolled medical marijuana patients with Michigan's 220,000. He told lawmakers, reporters, and residents that the East Coast state would soon be on that level. "We will have a medical marijuana program that at long last meets the needs of patients," the governor said.

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