New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is blowing up. On the heels of some significant changes to the state’s laws earlier this year, there’s been an explosion of new patients joining the program. Now, shops are struggling to keep up with demand. As New Jersey faces medical marijuana shortages as the program expands, patients are finding themselves left in the lurch.
Not Enough Weed in the Garden State
Patients in various parts of New Jersey are running into a big-time problem: dispensaries are running out of flower. The shortage is largely the result of recent changes to the state’s medical marijuana program.
Earlier this year, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spearheaded an effort to expand the state’s medical marijuana program in order to make cannabis more accessible to patients. Then in March, state lawmakers approved the measure.
Among a number of sweeping changes, the most significant was a change in the qualifying conditions. Previously, the state created a limited list of health conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana. But the new policy opened that up to include a much wider range of conditions that includes pretty much any diagnosed health issue.
The changes introduced in March also made it simpler for physicians to prescribe medical marijuana. Instead of requiring doctors to enroll in a public registry before prescribing cannabis, physicians in New Jersey can now freely recommend marijuana to patients. That includes more serious conditions like epilepsy and cancer, as well as more commonplace ailments like anxiety and chronic pain.
All of these changes were aimed at making medical marijuana more accessible to a larger number of patients. And it looks like that’s exactly what is happening. So much so, in fact, that many dispensaries are starting to run out of cannabis.
Fortunately, local media NJ.com reported that the shortage isn’t impacting the entire state. But in the more populated regions, patients are finding themselves standing in super long lines, and in many cases, they are leaving empty-handed, unable to get the flower they’re after.
Why The Struggle?
A quick look at New Jersey’s medical marijuana stats reveals why medical marijuana suppliers and retailers are struggling to keep up.
According to Bloomberg, the state’s medical marijuana roster has seen massive growth since the state expanded its program. More specifically, there have been roughly 100 new patients added to the program every day.
Throughout all of April, there were around 1,500 patients who were added to the medical marijuana rolls. The entire statewide program is now reportedly serving 20,000 patients in total. More than 4,000 of those patients have joined the program since Gov. Murphy moved into the governor’s office earlier this year.
In light of this rapid growth, the state is now working to expand its production and distribution infrastructure. The hope is that doing so will enable the legal market to catch up with the skyrocketing demand.
In particular, state authorities will begin allowing for additional new dispensaries. Similarly, the state expects to see expanded growing and production sites begin popping up.