New Jersey projects rapid growth in its medical marijuana industry

There are now more than 19,000 patients in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo, file)

There are now more than 19,000 patients in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo, file)

There are now more than 19,000 patients in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program and the recent addition of five qualifying conditions is expected to boost that number to more than 40,000 by the end of the next fiscal year.

Deputy Health Commissioner Jackie Cornell said the state is evaluating how many new medical marijuana dispensaries will be needed.

“We have heard horror stories from the West where we expand too quick and we have too much supply and then you see that only infiltrating into the black market,” she said. “So I think it’s something that we’re very interested and intentional about making sure that we are expanding access, but not running afoul here in bringing in too much too soon.”

Cornell said data from other states indicates there will be a decrease in the medical marijuana program if New Jersey legalizes adult recreational use.

“We are very much committed to making sure, however, that especially for minors and for those with very complex chronic health needs that the medicine that they need, this product, is available to them,” she said. “So I think it will not eliminate by any means the need for the medicinal marijuana program.”

Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal told lawmakers than including chronic pain as an eligible condition for medical marijuana will reduce reliance on opioids.

“Preventing that initial exposure of an opioid prescription just by giving medicinal marijuana for that pain, you’re already seeing reduced number of folks who are addicted to opioids and dying from opioids,” Elnahal said.

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