NJ Releases Draft Rules For Medicinal Marijuana

STATE–The Department of Health and Senior Services released its draft rules last week, pending publication in the New Jersey Register outlining the registration and application process for patients, primary caregivers, physicians, cultivators and dispensaries to participate in New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program.

“We have designed a clinically sound program that is unique to New Jersey. It is a physician-driven program that provides access to qualified patients for whom conventional treatment has failed and who may benefit from medicinal marijuana as a symptom reliever. The program is also designed to ensure that patients receive ongoing medical care from a physician who is managing their chronic debilitating illness,’’ said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh.

New Jersey is the 14th state to implement the use of medicinal marijuana by qualified patients who are being treated for certain chronic debilitating conditions. In drafting the rules, the Department consulted with scientists and national experts, as well as, academicians, advocates and administrators in the 13 other states and the District of Columbia.

The Department discussed the draft rules with physicians, advocates and legislative sponsors prior to their release. A public hearing will be scheduled after the rules are published in the New Jersey Register.

Physicians will be able to register electronically with the Department later this month. After their credentials are verified, doctors will submit names of patients they are recommending for medicinal marijuana for debilitating medical conditions including cancer, MS, AIDS, muscular dystrophy, seizure disorders and Crohn’s disease.

Patients whose names have been submitted by their physician will be able to register beginning next month and will be issued photo identification cards by the end of the year. Applications will be available next week for entities interested in applying as cultivators and dispensaries. The applications will be reviewed by a selection committee early next year. Cultivation and processing of medicinal marijuana is anticipated in March or April and should be available to qualified patients this summer.

Six Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) will be selected through a competitive process. Two of the ATCs will be cultivators and four will be dispensaries. All of the ATCs will be nonprofit. The ATCS would be located in each region of the State: north, central and south. The ATCs selected for dispensing medicinal marijuana will also have the ability to apply to the Department for satellite locations in their region.

The registration fee for patients is $200 and will be valid for two years. Patients who qualify for certain state and federal assistance programs would pay a reduced registration fee of $20.

Some key provisions of the draft rules include:

  • Physicians must have a bona fide and ongoing relationship with qualified patients they are recommending for the program.
  • Physicians are required to obtain informed consent from patients.
  • ID cards are required of everyone in the program: Patients and caregivers, as well as owners, operators, board members, staff and volunteers of cultivation sites and dispensaries
  • Non-profit principals, board members, owners, operators, and employees of ATCs and primary caregivers are required to undergo criminal background checks.
  • Alternative Treatment Centers have to document a plan for record keeping, inventory control and security that ensures the confidentiality of patient information and maintains the security of the sites.
  • Dispensaries have to provide educational materials and counsel patients on aspects of treatment including the risks and benefits of using medicinal marijuana.

“As a result of all of the work done by the Department and stakeholders, we are optimistic the program will provide for compassionate use of medicinal marijuana by qualified patients in a medical model,” Alaigh said.

Visit the Department’s web site at http://www.nj.gov/health/med_marijuana.shtml to read the draft regulations and obtain additional information about applying to participate in the program.

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