How do I become a medical marijuana patient in New Jersey?

Now that the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) has passed into law, patients are asking when and how they can start becoming “qualified” and start legally using medical marijuana in New Jersey. This is a quick review of the law, timeline and other issues. Remember, this is our understanding of the bill as it currently exists. We will all have to wait until the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services puts out explicit rules and regulations associated with the CUMMA to have a full understanding of the medical marijuana process. We will immediately post updates as we get more information.

What conditions are eligible for medical marijuana?

  1. One of the following conditions, if resistant to conventional medical therapy: seizure disorder, including epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity or glaucoma;
  2. severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia, or wasting syndrome results from the condition or treatment thereof: positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or cancer;
  3. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease;
  4. terminal illness, if the physician has determined a prognosis of less than 12 months of life; or
  5. any other medical condition or its treatment that is approved by the DHSS by regulation.

Note the last provision. Even if your serious medical condition is not yet covered, it can possibly be added by the Department of Health and Human Services.

When can I get medical marijuana?

CUMMA was passed into law on January 19, 2010. As we currently understand the new law (subject to the forthcoming regulations), “qualified” patients are supposed to be able to begin apply for their “Marijuana Cards” six months after that date, which would put the timeline in July, 2010.  But no additional, substantial information had been provided to the public, and the law as written is subject to the implementation of Regulations.  We will keep you updated here on current developments.

How do I get a “Medical Marijuana Card”?

When the program is running, before you can receive your card, if you qualify for an approved condition, a doctor writes a “certification,” indicating you qualify for a card.  You must then apply for and receive a “Registry Identity Card” from the Department of Health and Human Services for your qualifying condition. You then take your registry identification card, the certification from your doctor, and proper identification, to a licensed Authorized Treatment Center (ATC), in order to register with that ATC.  After registration is complete, a qualified patient (or their designated primary caregiverunder the law), may purchase their allotment of medical marijuana only from the ATC at which they registered.

Where do I get medical marijuana?

Unlike the previous 13 states that have de-criminalized the use of medical marijuana, CUMMA does not allow patients to cultivate their own marijuana. Instead a qualified patient must register with an Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) and purchase it solely there. Initially there will be 6 non-profit ATCs. Patients will likely have to compensate the ATC for the reasonable cost of production of the marijuana.

Should I begin a discussion with my doctor NOW?

Have as much in place as possible before the law takes effect. Begin a dialogue with your physician now. Discuss why you think you need marijuana for your condition. See what your doctor says. If he or she agrees, fine. Ask him/her if he would please make note of that in your chart.

If the doctor disagrees, ask why? Is it unfamiliarity with marijuana? Or the belief that the risks outweigh the benefits? Ask the doctor if you can present him/her with some research or findings that support your belief that medical marijuana has proven medical benefits for your particular condition. Also, it is recommended that you discuss the above with any specialist you might be involved with.  Perhaps get a second opinion.

The real issue is a patient’s need for medical marijuana as part of his/her therapy, and a physician agreeing to that. The law as it now reads appears very restrictive and many patients, who could benefit from medicinal marijuana, may find themselves not qualified under the law (The forthcoming Regulations will hopefully shed light on the availability of additional illnesses to be considered by the Department of Health and Human Services). But there exist over 200 ailments and illnesses that are treatable by medical marijuana (as proven by Harvard professors) — so many additional conditions may become qualified by the State of New Jersey as doctors and patients request their inclusion under the law going forward.  We will keep you updated on these developments.

Please don’t forget to visit our link partners who have other similar marijuana-related web sites from around the internet.