Doctors Able to Register Patients and Patients Will Receive ID Cards
State Website Updated With Comprehensive Information Including Interactive Map for Finding Doctors
Patients, Families and Advocates Celebrate Long-Awaited Milestone
It’s been a long wait — too long, for many patients who never lived to see the day — but legal medical marijuana is coming to New Jersey.
The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act reached will reach a major milestone on Thursday when the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services opens the patient registration process. Doctors who are treating qualifying patients will then be able to enter those patients into the patient registration system.
Those patients can then apply for the registration cards that will allow them to purchase medical marijuana at one of the state’s Alternative Treatment Centers. The first center, in Montclair, expects to begin dispensing medical marijuana to patients in September or October.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana law unfortunately doesn’t allow home cultivation by patients.
The law was enacted on January 18, 2010 but the implementation process has been slow, due to what many activists see as deliberate foot-dragging on the part of Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. The law legalizing medical marijuana was signed by Christie’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, on his last day in office.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Medical Marijuana Program, updated its website earlier this week with comprehensive information, including patient registration information.
|Roseanne Scotti, Drug Policy Alliance of N.J.: “Patients and their families have waited too long for this day”|
Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director for Drug Policy Alliance — the organization that led the advocacy campaign pass the law — expressed excitement that the program would finally begin operations.
“Patients and their families have waited too long for this day,” Scotti said. “They have been forced to run the risks associated with obtaining medical marijuana on the illegal market. It is fantastic that they will now have safe and legal access to the medicine they need to relieve their suffering and improve their quality of life.”
Don and Gerry McGrath, who lost their son, Sean, to cancer he was only 29, expressed hope that the opening of the program would mean that other families would be spared the agonizing experience they endured. The combination of Sean’s illness and its treatment destroyed his appetite and made him unable to keep down what food he could eat.
After trying other medications without success, his doctors suggested that marijuana might help. Because New Jersey did not have a medical marijuana law at the time, the McGraths were forced to go to the illegal market for Sean’s medicine.
“Since Sean’s death, we have been dedicated to making medical marijuana legal in New Jersey so that no family has to go through what we did,” said Don McGrath. “In addition to the emotional pain of trying to save our son, we lived in fear that we would be arrested.
“We were just doing what Sean’s doctors recommended and medical marijuana helped him enormously,” Don said. “The opening of the patient registration process is a major victory for patients and their loved ones.”