HEALTH

NJ calls for big increase in number of medical marijuana dispensaries

By John Hurdle | NJ Spotlight

New Jersey health officials on Monday recommended a huge increase in the number of medicinal marijuana dispensaries, arguing that the current handful of so-called Alternative Treatment Centers won’t be nearly enough to meet surging demand.

The Department of Health said the state will need 50 to 90 of the centers in the next three years to keep up with the sharp growth in the number of people using marijuana for medical purposes. The proposed total would be at least eight times the current six dispensaries.

The number of patients participating in New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program is growing at about 100 a day, largely driven by the Murphy administration’s addition last year of five illnesses that allow patients to receive the drug to relieve conditions such as chronic pain, end-stage cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder. In January, the administration also added opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying complaints.

The number of participants is now just under 44,000, some 27,000 of whom have joined since the start of the Murphy administration, the DOH said in a biennial report.

The number of patients has more than doubled in the last year.

“If we continue at that current growth rate, we’re going to hit 127,000 patients by January 2022,” said Jeff Brown, assistant commissioner for medical marijuana, in an interview.

“There’s no way that six dispensaries can serve 127,000 patients,” he said.

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