NJ Medical Marijuana Program Could Soon Expand, Affecting Bergen County Residents

The NJ medical marijuana program that has been in effect for several years could soon undergo radical changes that would allow more people than ever to qualify for treatment. The potential changes will hinge on whether the New Jersey Department of Health decides to add certain medical conditions to the list of illnesses that qualify a patient for medical marijuana treatment. Beginning on August 1, 2016, anyone who has suggestions for illnesses that should be added to the state’s official list of qualifying medical conditions can visit the NJ Health Department website, download an official form, and send it to state health officials via certified mail.

A medical review panel will evaluate the suggested medical conditions and offer recommendations to the New Jersey Department of Health. Officials with the state will make the final call on whether to alter medical marijuana policy. If the medical pot policy is changed on the basis of public suggestions, it would be the first time the program’s inception in 2010 that it was affected by public input.

Chronic Illnesses on the List of Qualifying Medical Conditions for Medical Marijuana in Bergen County NJ

A person who may be thinking about using marijuana to alleviate pain or for other medicinal purposes needs to be aware that a conviction for drug possession in New Jersey could have severe consequences. The statutory penalties allow judges to sentence a drug crime offender to state prison time. On top of that, New Jersey judges are notoriously harsh when it comes to defendants convicted of drug offenses, including crimes like marijuana possession and marijuana distribution.

There is, of course, a major exception to the tough marijuana laws in New Jersey. A person suffering from a chronic health condition can potentially avoid being charged with a crime, so long as they are using pot to treat their illness.

The key to the exception is being on the list of qualifying condition. For instance, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) does not qualify for an exception under the medical marijuana program, despite the best efforts of state lawmakers in Trenton NJ to get PTSD included on the official list of qualifying conditions.

Under NJ law, a person suffering from any of the following medical conditions may be allowed to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Terminal cancer
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease)
  • Any other terminal illness

Additionally, a person suffering from seizure disorders or glaucoma may also have the opportunity to qualify for medical marijuana treatment. On top of that that, a person diagnosed with HIV/AIDS may qualify for the New Jersey medical pot program if their treatment plans are simply not working and have resulted in negative health effects like severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, or vomiting.

NJ.com conducted research and found that 8,162 patients and 472 caregivers are registered with the state’s medical marijuana program. So how does a person qualify to become an official caregiver? As long as the applicant passes a background check by the state, they can be allowed to pick up marijuana from an official medical pot dispensary and then take the drugs to patients’ homes.

Keep in mind that a caregiver must be licensed by the State of New Jersey. If someone is dispensing marijuana as an unlicensed caregiver, they are committing a very serious crime and could potentially be prosecuted for simple possession of marijuana or even possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

At the present time, there are just five official medical marijuana dispensaries in NJ. The dispensaries are located in Woodbridge, Cranbury, Montclair, Egg Harbor, and Bellmawr. It is also expected that a sixth medical marijuana facility will open later this year in Secaucus, New Jersey.


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