Number of medical marijuana patients inches up in N.J.

    Seventy-nine New Jersey residents have been approved for medical marijuana cards since the online application process opened three weeks ago.

    John O’Brien, director of the medical marijuana program, said officials were unsure what demand would be like among qualified patients.

    “I think right from the very beginning it was difficult to determine what exactly the patient population would be,” O’Brien said. “Right now we see that it’s growing incrementally, and I think we’ll continue to see a number of patients and number of physicians applying and taking advantage.”

    Identification cards will be mailed to the dispensary of the patient’s choosing once it opens.

    The owner of the first dispensary set to start operating, located in Montclair, hopes to open by mid-September. The one in Egg Harbor Township in South Jersey is still months from opening.

    Dr. Mark Angelo, medical director for the palliative care program at Cooper University Hospital, is one of four Camden County doctors registered to prescribe marijuana. He said interest in the program has been high.

    “Initially we got a deluge of phone calls,” Angelo said, though they have slowed in recent weeks. “We actually had to write a script for my secretary as to how to answer the phone when these calls come in for medical marijuana, to make sure we give patients the right information.”

    Angelo said he has recommended about only 10 patients for medical marijuana. Many people call with complaints of chronic pain, which does not qualify a patient for the program.

    The receptionist at another Camden County doctor’s office said she is fielding about 15 calls a day from those interested in medical marijuana. A third office, in Burlington County, reports more modest interest.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.