NJ governor expands medical marijuana program

- Three months into his term, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the previous administration made getting medical marijuana very difficult for patients. So on Tuesday, he announced a long list of new rules for the state's medical marijuana program, including lowering fees and increasing the amount of pot that patients can pick up per month.

"We will have a medical marijuana program that is compassionate, that is progressive, and that at long last meets the needs of patients," Murphy said. "We will expand both access to and the supply of marijuana program."

Effective immediately, patients suffering from anxiety, migraines, Tourette's syndrome, and two specific chronic pain disorders will be eligible for the pot program.

"Hundreds if not thousands of people are going to gain access to life-saving medication as a result of these changes," Andrew Weingast, the senior cannabis consultant at Green Leaf Compassion Center in Montclair. It is one of five medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. He said that pot should be considered more often as an alternative to opioids.

"I can speak from my own personal experience on that—having been prescribed a ridiculous amount of opiates by the VA," he said. "Cannabis saved my life."

Some critics said they see Murphy's move as a next step toward legalizing marijuana. David Evans, a special advisor to the Drug Free America Foundation, called that a bad idea.

"What they're seeking to do here is very unreasonable, unscientific," Evans said. "They're looking to expand the number of pot stores that will be available."

But Murphy made legalizing marijuana a core campaign promise. Recent polling does show most New Jersey voters are in favor of changes.

"The days of making residents jump through hoops are coming to an end," Murphy said. "We recognize that patients should be treated as patients, not criminals."

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