With New Jersey’s medical marijuana law set to kick in this July, patients still have many questions. Some we have answers to, and some we still don’t.
Even though the law is set to start this July, it likely won’t. Both the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Governor asked Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the sponsor of the bill, for an extension on the 6 month enactment period. Although he denied the extension, the DHSS is keeping very quiet about what’s going on with the law’s progress. But here is what we do know:
Who will be able to get a medical marijuana card?
Under this law, patients with any of the following medical conditions are eligible for a marijuana card – A life expectancy under 1 year, cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, or any chronic medical condition, or its treatment, that causes severe or chronic pain, nausea, seizures, and severe and persistent muscle spasms or any other medical condition or its treatment that is approved by the DHSS.
Can patients grow their own marijuana?
Unfortunately, no. Under this law patients will have to get medical marijuana from pot dispensaries or “alternative treatment centers” as they are called in the legislation.
Where are the marijuana dispensaries?
We still don’t know exactly where these dispensaries will be, or who will be running them. The DHSS still has not started an application process for potential dispensary owners. What we do know is that the first 6 in the state have to be non profit, and of these 6, there will have to be 2 in the north, central, and southern regions of the New Jersey.
How do patients get a medical marijuana card?
The patient’s doctor must “certify that the patient has a debilitating medical condition for which recognized drugs or treatments are not, or would not be effective and that the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient.” This doctor, who must be responsible for the on-going treatment of the patient’s debilitating medical condition, will also have to give written instructions on how much marijuana could be dispensed in a one month period, but it cannot exceed 2 ounces. (Don’t have a doctor? Check out our list of quality medical marijuana doctors).
Then you must submit the following to the DHSS to receive your cannabis card -
- Written certification from your doctor that you are a qualifying patient;
- Application fee (the amount has not yet been determined);
- Your name, address and date of birth;
- Name, address, and telephone number of your physician;
- Name, address and date of birth of your caregiver, if any.
Although this is the most restrictive medical marijuana law in the country right now, it will likely be expanded on in the coming years. This is a great first step in New Jersey but certainly not the end of the road for medical marijuana advocates as we work to expand this law.
Regardless, the next few months should be an exciting time for New Jersey as we get set to enact this law. We hope the DHSS recognizes that patients need their medicine and do what is necessary to make the deadline this July.
Evan is a Director of NY Patients Fist, the Ballot Initiative Coordinator for NORML-NJ, President of Ithaca College’s chapter of SSDP, and a member of the Volunteer Steering Committee for the California Tax and Regulate Campaign.