Why New Jersey’s medical marijuana gets a ‘C’ grade

March 29, 2017 | Geoffrey Marshall

By David Matthau for New Jersey 101.5

"What we’re finding is that in states that have medical cannabis programs that allow recommendations for chronic pain, we’re actually seeing a drop in opioid deaths by as much as 25 percent." - Steph Sherer

A new report by Americans for Safe Access, a non-profit cannabis advocacy group, gives New Jersey a grade of “C” for its medical marijuana program.

“The largest problem for New Jersey is actually the lack of civil protection, as well as a pretty restrictive conditions list,” said Steph Sherer, the executive director of Americans for Safe Access.

She said compared to other parts of the country, New Jersey is falling behind, because “there are actually quite a few states with better grades.”

Sherer said the score for each state was based on how well current law and regulations accommodate patient needs in the following categories:

  • Patient rights and civil protection from discrimination
  • Access to medicine
  • Ease of navigation
  • Functionality
  • Consumer safety and provider requirements.

She said patient rights and civil protections would include things like “if someone is a medical cannabis patient, do they have to worry about arrest? Do they have to worry about losing their children or losing their housing?”

She noted right now in New Jersey there are no housing or employment protections for medical marijuana users.

Sherer said ease of navigation and functionally would include things like “How hard is it for a patient to navigate the system? Is there onerous paperwork? Are there too many doctor visits that are required in order for a patient to enroll in the program?”

She said it should be easier for patients in New Jersey to enroll in the program, so they can get relief, but also because “what we’re finding is that in states that have medical cannabis programs that allow recommendations for chronic pain, we’re actually seeing a drop in opioid deaths by as much as 25 percent.”

Last month the Jersey Health Department’s Medical Marijuana Review Panel held a public hearing to gather input on what if any illnesses should be added to the list of conditions that can be treated by medicinal pot.

Last fall, Gov. Chris Christie signed a measure that added post-traumatic stress disorder to the list.

She said it’s “ironic” that Christie has been tapped by the White House to lead a Commission to look at the opioid crisis, and yet his home state of New Jersey is currently not using medical marijuana to address the issue of chronic pain, something 28 other states are doing.

Right now almost 11,000 patients are enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.



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