Trenton – There are 9,000 people in New Jersey who are registered to receive medical marijuana, a number that is likely to grow with Gov. Chris Christie’s decision Wednesday to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying illnesses for the program.
Veterans and patient advocacy groups created petitions and offered emotional pleas at public hearings to encourage the governor to sign the PTSD bill. They’ve argued marijuana helps relieve pain, muscle spasms and anxiety associated with their emotional and physical injuries.
People diagnosed with one of six diseases qualify for medical marijuana with their physician’s recommendation:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Terminal cancer;
- Muscular dystrophy;
- Inflammatory bowel disease including Crohn’s disease;
- Any terminal illness with a prognosis less than a year
Other patients with these illnesses qualify if a doctor verifies that traditional medical treatment has failed:
- People with seizure disorders including epilepsy,
- Intractable skeletal muscular spasticity;
- HIV, AIDS and cancer if people suffer from severe and chronic pain, vomiting and nausea and wasting syndrome.
The program is also likely to draw more participants because the first cannabis-infused topical products went on sale at a dispensary in Camden County last Friday. Patients have long said they want an alternative to smoking or making their own cannabis oil.
Compassionate Sciences in Bellmawr offers two lotions, and “sales are brisk and promising,” according to George Schidlovsky, the executive director. The nonprofit dispensary will begin selling lozenges later this month.
The list of diseases and conditions could expand. A newly-appointed medical review panel will consider other suggestions and make recommendations to Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, who has the final say whether any illnesses are added.
The review panel will hold a public hearing that will allow people who submitted a petition an opportunity explain their requests, although a hearing date has not been decided yet, Leusner said.