Behind the dramatic changes made to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program last week was a desire to treat participants as “patients, not criminals,” Gov. Murphy said as he announced plans for an immediate overhaul that could open the program to 100,000 or even 200,000 new patients.
Under the stringent rules imposed by his predecessor, Chris Christie, a limited number of patients were permitted to buy cannabis and only six dispensaries were allowed to open across the state, the governor said. To be eligible, a patient had to have one of about a dozen ailments, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma, and could purchase only two ounces a month, under video surveillance.
Enrollment stalled and currently only 18,000 patients participate in the eight-year-old program, Murphy said.
Patients say the changes are long overdue.
“This may help get rid of the stigma surrounding marijuana,” said Leah Bakos, a patient from Bellmawr, who attended the governor’s announcement in Trenton. “Some people look down on you for using marijuana – they