New Jersey expands medical marijuana program, adding 5 qualifying conditions

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AJ Ross has more on how New Jersey is expanding their medical marijuana program. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has announced an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program.

Murphy unveiled the expansion Tuesday. It came the same day that a panel the Democratic governor established published its recommendations.

Among the changes Murphy's making are the addition of five qualifying conditions: anxiety, migraines, Tourette's syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders and chronic visceral pain. Those categories are effective immediately.

"We are changing the restrictive culture of our medical marijuana program to make it more patient-friendly," Murphy said. "We are adding five new categories of medical conditions, reducing patient and caregiver fees, and recommending changes in law so patients will be able to obtain the amount of product that they need. Some of these changes will take time, but we are committed to getting it done for all New Jersey residents who can be helped by access to medical marijuana."

The patient fee will also immediately be reduced from $200 to $100, with a $20 rate for veterans and seniors.

Some other immediate changes include lifting the one-caregiver limit per patient and allowing Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) to apply to open satellite locations, a change that will allow for short-term increase of supply. Further, any physician who meets the requirements of the medical marijuana program will be able to prescribe marijuana without appearing on a public registry.

The Department of Health's website will continue to be available for physicians who would like to publicize their availability and willingness to offer medical marijuana as a treatment option for patients, but the public physician registry will no longer be a requirement.

Recommendations to change the law include increasing the monthly product limit to four ounces, allowing hospice patients to have an unlimited supply, allowing adult patients to have access to edibles (helping those with dexterity issues), and eliminating the requirement that the original six ATCs be non-profits. There are currently five ATCs in New Jersey, and a sixth is scheduled to open this spring. The Department of Health will also work with the Department of Law and Public Safety to expedite the current process for obtaining a permit for the next round of ATC applications.

The Department also proposes amending its rules to allow future ATCs to specialize in specific areas of the business such as cultivating, dispensing, or manufacturing, without having to do all three. The administration believes that this will add flexibility and specialization to the industry, ultimately improving access for patients.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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