HEALTH

New rules further expand patient access to medical marijuana

The Department of Health announced that it has amended some rules governing the state’s medical marijuana program. The rule changes come after Gov. Phil Murphy’s Executive Order #6, which charged the department with reviewing all aspects of the program in an effort to expand access to qualifying individuals and cutting red tape.

“These rules solidify key program reforms to ensure greater patient access to this effective therapy,” said Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal in a statement. “With these changes, the Department will be able to add conditions more rapidly, remove barriers for minors and increase supply of product available.”

The rule changes have been in effect since the governor’s executive order in January, but they’re now part of the program’s standard operating procedures.

In addition to elevating the medicinal marijuana program to the status of division within the Department of Health, the changes include a reduction of the fee from $200 to $100. Seniors and military veterans now qualify for a reduced registration fee of $20. Patients can now designate up to two primary caregivers.

The rule changes codify the already expanded eligible conditions — PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain of visceral origin, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraines, Tourette syndrome and Opioid Use Disorder.

The rules also allow doctors to opt out of being included on a public list of participating physicians and expands the forms of medical marijuana available to include oil-based formulations, like vape cartridges.

Rules intended to further expand the program include the creation of a separate permitting system for cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing marijuana for medical purposes, and makes it possible for minors to qualify as patients by removing the requirement of psychiatric evaluation as a condition to qualify.

The medical marijuana program now has 46,300 patients, 950 doctors and 1,850 caregivers participating.