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By Jonathan D. Salant for NJ.com
New Jersey, about to embark on an expansion of medical marijuana, received higher marks this year than in the past from a group that supports access to cannabis for medical use.
Americans for Safe Access gave the Garden State a B, up from C the past three years, in its annual report card. The report was released Tuesday as the National Conference of State Legislatures gathered in Nashville for its annual meeting.
David Mangone, director of government affairs, said the report’s timing was designed to give state lawmakers “clear ways to improve access to medical cannabis."
Illinois and Oregon received the highest grades awarded by the group, A-. California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico also scored higher than New Jersey, receiving grades of B+.
More than one-third of the states, 17, received failing grades: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
While the report was issued before the New Jersey Legislature, the state saw its grade improve because it added new categories, including chronic pain, to qualify for medical marijuana, and announced plans to expand the number of dispensaries.
It also received its highest scores for protecting patients’ privacy and for allowing those in need of medical cannabis to qualify to get the drug.
New Jersey has more than 51,000 medical marijuana patients.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation last month to expand medical marijuana, including adding dozens of new providers and making it easier for patients to get the drug.