Patients in New Jersey want more illnesses eligible for medical marijuana

 In this Nov. 21, 2014 file photo, former U.S. Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin smokes medical marijuana at his home in Belfast, Maine.  (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo, File)

In this Nov. 21, 2014 file photo, former U.S. Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin smokes medical marijuana at his home in Belfast, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo, File)

Patients with illnesses not eligible for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program are urging the list of qualifying conditions be expanded. 

41-year-old Keesha Sanchez from Spotswood has RSD, a condition that causes severe burning pain in her arms and legs. She’d like to try medical marijuana in hopes of some relief.

“There’s days that I wake up and the swelling that are in my feet that I can’t walk. My husband has carried me to the bathroom, carried me to bed. I have two children. I’ve lost the last three years from this progression.”

Sanchez spoke today at the Medical Marijuana Review Panel at the state capitol. The committee makes recommendations to the Commissioner of the Department of Health on whether new medical conditions should qualify. 

22-year-old Hailey Nuluna from Manahawkin played soccer in college until she was diagnosed with Lupus. She wants that condition to be eligible for medical marijuana treatment. She now gets it illegally to relieve her pain.

“I was originally taking a lot of medications and they just made me not feel like myself and then as soon I switched over to using marijuana more and got rid of a lot of the medications, I started to be able to deal with the pain more on a daily basis.”

34-year-old Marco Esquandolas from Woodbury has severe chronic pain and used medical marijuana for two years in Colorado.

“To be able to accept a non-habit-forming plant that has never led to any overdoses or major addiction anywhere near the scope as opiates, which are too far commonly dispensed, was an eye opener. More information and facts need to be given to the public as to what this plant can do for us.”

Dr. Steve Jenison is the former medical director of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program where chronic pain has been an eligible condition since 2009. He says including it in New Jersey’s program would reduce prescription of opiates.

“We’re getting a lot of reports from physicians who spend most of their time managing pain that a lot of their patients have managed to significantly decrease their use of opioid medications now that they’re using medical cannabis.”Ken Wolski is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey. He’s hopeful more illnesses will be added for participation in the state’s program.”I think it would be irresponsible not to add additional qualifying conditions given the scientific evidence that was presented in these petitions and the very compelling anectodal stories that have been told.”


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