New Jersey Wants To Add More Qualifying Conditions For Medical Marijuana
A state panel on Thursday moved to broaden the conditions that qualify New Jersey patients for medical marijuana to include chronic pain and anxiety.
The Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel voted to approve several conditions that had been petitioned by medical marijuana advocates for addition to the state’s limited list.
The panel, chaired by anesthesiologist Alex Bekker, voted to recommend state regulators broaden medical marijuana use for patients suffering from various types of chronic pain related to muscular skeletal disorders and visceral conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and Tourette syndrome.
It voted against recommending use of the drug to treat asthma and chronic fatigue.
Thursday’s vote is still a preliminary step.
The state Health Department will post the recommendations on its website for 60 days, during which time another public hearing will be held. The panel will then submit a final recommendation to Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, who has the final say.
Bennett in an appointee of Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization who has been reluctant to expand the state’s medicinal program over concerns it could lead to more recreational use.
Patients and marijuana activists have long criticized the governor for making the program unnecessarily rigid and limited. They sued successfully in 2014 to compel the Christie administration to begin the process of adding medical conditions.
Roseanne Scotti, the director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, which advocated for several of the additions, said she was “absolutely thrilled” by the vote.
“It’s going to mean so much to so many people in this state,” she said to NJ.com.
Today, people qualify for the program if their they have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); multiple sclerosis; terminal cancer; muscular dystrophy; inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease; and any terminal illness.
Most state programs already include chronic pain as a qualifying condition, Bekker has said previously. New Jersey only admits chronic pain patients who have cancer or HIV/AIDS.
Patients for whom conventional treatment has failed also may qualify if they have a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; post traumatic stress disorder and glaucoma. People with HIV/AIDS and cancer also qualify if treatment has caused severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting or wasting syndrome.
There are 11,659 patients enrolled in the program, according to the health department.