After ordering a 60-day review of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, Governor Phil Murphy is making changes to expand it dramatically.
Murphy says bureaucratic conditions have stifled the eight-year-old program's ability to help.
"The days of making residents jump through hoops are coming to an end. We will have a medical marijuana program that is compassionate, that is progressive, and that at long last meets the needs of patients."
Deputy Health Commissioner Jackie Cornell says five more debilitating medical conditions now qualify patients to participate in the program.
"They are anxiety, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, chronic pain of visceral origin, migraines, and Tourette's syndrome. We've also made the program more affordable by cutting the patient and caregiver registration fees in half and adding veterans and seniors who qualify for the reduced fee of $20."
Cornell says patients can now have more than one caregiver pick up their medicinal marijuana.
Existing dispensaries will be allowed to open satellite locations and the application process for new dispensaries is being expedited.
The biennial patient registration fee is being reduced to $100 and discounted to $20 for veterans and those 65 and older.
Advocates and patients welcome the changes, but they're concerned that the supply might not be able to keep up with the increased demand
Trenton resident Laura Carter suffers from PTSD and been using medicinal marijuana for three months.
"Right now there's two dispensaries that are on about a 45 day wait for new patient appointments. So adding those five conditions are definitely going to tax the dispensaries that we have now. At a few dispensaries there's long lines to get in at certain times of the day."
Bill Caruso is an advocate for New Jersey United For Marijuana Reform. He says it takes 6 to 9 months for a marijuana plant to mature and it will be a challenge for the current industry to meet the demand.
"They've been constrained in the current places they are so you may see some ability to grow. I think you're going to see with new operators coming in that may have greenhouse or warehouse ability to expand operations there will be an increase in the available space now that you literally can grow this. We're going to have to get working in this right away to get new licensees and the expansion of the current ones."
The Murphy administration is recommending New Jersey lawmakers consider lifting the rule that dispensaries be non-profits.
Scott Rudder, the president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association says that would help.
"Because it's an industry that has a lot of handcuffs on it due to the federal restrictions getting investors engaged in the process is very important. For investing into the current businesses and allowing them to expand they need those investments. So a for-profit company is much more valuable to invest in than a non-profit."
The governor says the changes he's making is just a start and there could be additional measures to make the medical marijuana program more effective.