It’s been nearly five years since New Jersey passed medical marijuana laws in their state, but so far few dispensaries have opened and others have dragged their heels to the point where patients have had enough.
Yesterday, the state Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee took an hour to listen to testimony from patients and dispensary owners fed up with the current system. Among their gripes: dispensaries have taken more than three years to open, patients in parts of the state have little access to legal meds and doctors should be able to write pot recommendations without having to sign up themselves up with a onerous physician registration system.
The hearing came after more than 16,000 emails and calls were made to the state health department from frustrated cannabis patients.
Lawmakers also heard from patients and advocates pushing for the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as people suffering from chronic pain as qualifying conditions. They argued that patient fees are also prohibitively high. It costs about $200 for patients register with the state.
Currently, there are around 1,700 medical marijuana patients and according to state health department officials, around 20 percent of them aren’t being served by the current dispensary system that has only licensed three shops so far.
“The goals of the Department of Health should be for the patients to have timely, affordable access to medical marijuana,” said Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.
The talks are part of an ongoing grassroots effort to fix New Jersey’s broken medical marijuana program that started in December when patients proposed a legislative fix allowing patient reciprocity within the New Jersey system that would have allowed patients to purchase meds in other states like Connecticut and Arizona and bring it back to New Jersey with them.
But New Jersey Gov. Chris “Tollbooth” Christie has made it clear that he won’t be allowing any changes to occur under his administration. He’s done enough for medical marijuana patients in his narrow little mind.
“See this is what happens. Every time you sign one expansion, then the advocates will come back and ask for another one,” Christie told reporters in December of last year. “Here’s what the advocates want: they want legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. It will not happen on my watch, ever. I am done expanding the medical marijuana program under any circumstances. So we’re done.”