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The cost of New Jersey medical marijuana, among the highest of any state in the country, would be covered for patients enrolled in four different financial assistance programs meant to help children, seniors, crime victims and those with disabilities, under identical bills already approved by the Senate and Assembly health committees.
The bills, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, could be voted on as soon as this week.
Four state programs would begin helping cover the cost of medical marijuana for beneficiaries, under a bill that took a first step through the Legislature Wednesday.
The bill endorsed by the Assembly Health Committee, A5760, would provide long-elusive outside financial support through the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled, Senior Gold and the Victims of Crime Compensation Office.
Parents must be notified if their minor child unlawfully possesses or buys marijuana under a bill lawmakers advanced Wednesday, not even a month since Gov. Phil Murphy signed cannabis legislation that explicitly prohibited parental notification.
The measure appears to be on a fast track, coming after concerns that the law left parents in the dark. Spokespeople for Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney said they support the measure, and Murphy, a fellow Democrat, said earlier this month that he supported the idea of parental notification.
At a time when states in New England and the nearby mid-Atlantic region are sprinting toward various styles of legalization and regulation, New Jersey’s fledgling medical marijuana industry is caught in a predicament.
His bill (A3437) would allow an additional 12 dispensaries in New Jersey, up from the current limit of six. Only five dispensaries are open, serving roughly 15,000 patients enrolled in the program.
The legislation would also eliminate the requirement that doctors enroll in a state registry to prescribe medical marijuana, add chronic pain as a qualifying condition and remove restrictions that only let minors get edible products. Adult patients would also be able to get up to a one-year supply of medical marijuana, up from the current 90-day supply cap.
Current law permits medical marijuana to be prescribed only for certain debilitating conditions.
The Assembly health committee approved the measure, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposed. Three Democratic members didn't vote and two Republicans abstained.
Like other , New Jersey has set strict limits on medical marijuana. These rules govern who qualifies to use cannabis-based treatments, who’s authorized to prescribe them, and what kinds of medicine manufacturers can produce and sell.
Doctors would decide which patients should use marijuana as medicine instead of being limited by a narrow list of eligible diseases set by law, under a sweeping medical marijuana overhaul approved by a state Assembly panel Thursday.
The measure that cleared the Assembly Health Committee would also allow registered patients to buy up to four ounces of cannabis, or twice as much as they are permitted to obtain now.
It would also allow 12 cultivators and 40 dispensaries instead of existing six that are permitted to both grow and sell, according to the bill
But legislation advanced Thursday by the Assembly health committee, a combination of A-3437 and A-3740, does away with that list and says marijuana can be prescribed for “any medical condition diagnosed by a physician,” including symptoms resulting from medical treatments.
“What we’re doing is lifting the restrictions and putting it in the patients’ and doctors’ hands,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, one of the sponsors of the state’s original medical marijuana legislation.