New Jersey's notoriously strict medical marijuana program may be on the road to expansion, thanks to the approval of five new ailments as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis by state regulators. Patch reports that the state's Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel has approved anxiety, migraines, Tourette's Syndrome, "chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders," and "chronic pain of visceral origin (related to internal organs)" as conditions for which a doctor can recommend a cannabis-based treatment.
The panel gave a tentative approval to these five conditions back in May, followed by a 60-day waiting period to solicit public comments. This week, the panel reconvened to make their final decision on the new conditions, approving them with a 5-to-1 vote. Asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome were also proposed as qualifying conditions, but the panel voted unanimously against allowing either.
In order to become fully legal, these conditions must be approved by Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, who has opposed legal cannabis in the past. A New Jersey Department of Health spokesperson told Patch that Bennett has 180 days to deliver a final decision on allowing these conditions. Despite Bennett's opposition to legal cannabis, MMJ advocates are hopeful that she will still approve these conditions. Last month, Gov. Chris Christie, a vocal opponent of cannabis reform, signed a bill allowing PTSD sufferers to use medical cannabis in the state.
The rollout of New Jersey's medical cannabis program has been plagued with problems, including lack of participation from doctors, a small number of dispensaries, and high prices. The program has slowly been expanding over the past two years, however, adding 76% more patients from 2015 to 2016, and the number of dispensaries has also grown.
The current laws allow amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, and terminal illness as qualifying conditions. Many patients suffering from seizure disorders, glaucoma, skeletal muscular spasticity, PTSD, HIV, AIDS, and cancer can also qualify for medical cannabis, and these five new conditions would allow even more patients access to the natural medicine.