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Medical Marijuana in New Jersey: Legal, but Not Available

Even though New Jersey legalized medical marijuana nearly three years ago, qualified patients in the Garden State are still unable to purchase it. According to the Wall Street Journal, it probably will not be legal until the end of 2012 at the earliest. The delay, according to state officials, has been caused by efforts to structure the program so that New Jersey will not experience the abuse and drug crime that has allegedly been epidemic in the medical marijuana programs in California and Colorado. The state plans to prevent the loss of the drug to non-legal sellers by measuring and weighing it very carefully during the production stage. 

Another source of delay has been local opposition to having dispensaries next door, down the street or in the next town. Despite this, plans for the first dispensary, in Montclair, are underway. A second dispensary, in Egg Harbor, was recently approved at the local level.

The state will soon release a list of doctors who will be authorized to prescribe marijuana for debilitating medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and cancer. The amount an individual patient can purchase will be limited, and the price will be governed by the state. The cost of medical marijuana is generally not covered by private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

Governor Christie was initially opposed to legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey, but has since changed his mind and now supports it. He appointed a retired State Police officer, John O'Brien, Jr., to oversee the program. New Jersey is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal (although in the case of New Jersey, not yet available).

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Marijuana Sales Delayed," by Heather Haddon, Feb. 27, 2012.

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