Now that recreational marijuana sales for adults have begun in New Jersey, the need for medical marijuana doctors will soon be over in The Garden State. Not quite yet, but soon.
In an ideal world, all medical doctors in New Jersey would have signed on with the State to be able to write a medical marijuana prescription. But few did. Seems that old stigmas die hard. And it seems old stigmas die hard more-so for doctors in NJ than for the average citizen. Just over 67% of New Jersey voters said yes to marijuana legalization on election day in 2020. Yet, even after that vote only a small fraction of NJ doctors have been willing to write a prescription for medical marijuana. So, for those patients who were in need of this medicine, which comes with an abundance of good data in support of its’ legitimate use in a variety of medical settings, most patients have had no choice other than using a so-called ‘medical marijuana doctor.’
Medical marijuana has been a blessing for many NJ residents. For instance, there are folks who suffer the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis but who cannot take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, who don’t wish to take dangerous and additive opioids, and don’t wish to take a chance on the risk of side effects from biologic drugs which are only efficacious for a portion of patients anyway. But medical marijuana helps these patients significantly with no negative side effects for the overwhelming majority of patients. To our knowledge, nobody has ever died from marijuana use compared with many patients who have been injured by biologic drugs or killed by opioids and, for that matter, killed by the drug acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) which is a major cause of liver failure when the recommended dosage is exceeded.
So, most patients who could benefit from medical marijuana have been relegated to using ‘medical marijuana doctors’ to get their prescriptions. Typically, a medical marijuana doctor in NJ requires 3 costly appointments prior to issuing a prescription and then requiring the patient to return every 3 months for a new prescription, even though the law allows for the doctor to give the patient a 1 year prescription. So, the New Jersey medical marijuana doctors requires a minimum of 5 visits over the course of the first year, and then 4 visits each year at 3 month intervals for the ensuing years. And making the costly doctor visits more painful, rarely will these doctors submit these visits to the patients’ insurance company, so in most all cases the patient is out-of-pocket for these expenses. It all feels like one big ugly money-grab by doctors in the medical marijuana program operating under the medical marijuana banner.
Well, this unnecessary and expensive ‘medical marijuana doctor’ scenario will come to an end soon as recreational marijuana in NJ expands. We are not there yet because there are just a handful of recreational dispensaries in a state with 8+ million residents. The need for medical marijuana doctors will drop quickly as the amount of recreational dispensaries increases over the next year or so.
The sooner the better!
New Jersey residents should be thankful that now, the first recreational dispensaries are operational in the state for the first time ever since last April… and the amount of recreational dispensaries will increase.
Also let’s not forget to be thankful that some medical cannabis dispensaries such as Breakwater in Cranbury will remain medical-only for now, meaning medical patients won’t have to wait on long lines to make their purchases.
And a big hat tip to Governor Phil Murphy for initially expanding the medical marijuana program in NJ… and for never giving up on his promise to make marijuana legal for all New Jersey adults.