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New Jersey expanding its medical marijuana program

NEW JERSEY — New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy is rapidly expanding the state’s medical marijuana program.

Effective Tuesday — anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s Syndrome, muscular-skeletal and organ diseases were added to the list that pre-qualifies a patient for a prescription. Plus more treatment centers are on the horizon. Murphy said new center applications will be expedited and existing centers can apply for a waiver to open up satellite locations across the state.

"The days of making residents jump through hoops are coming to an end,” said Murphy.

The cost for patients to register for the program is dropping by half — from $200 to $100. Patients who get financial assistance from the government, the elderly and veterans can register for $20.

Doctors can now prescribe without facing stigma. They must still register with the state department of health, but their name no longer needs to be publicly listed on a state directory.

More education is also needed to erase that stigma, said Mike Honig, whose son died from brain cancer in January. Medical marijuana was the only thing that could make Jake “the tank” Honig, 7, comfortable in his final months of life.

"It literally took the place of six pharmaceutical drugs,” said Mike Honig. “Watching a little boy towards his final days leave us, we were able to have more time with him as we knew him."

But the Honig's were limited by state law. They could only purchase 2 ounces of medical marijuana per month. Jake needed 4 ounces.

Six years ago, Lindsay Abromaitis-Smith was a puppeteer performing on Broadway when she was diagnosed with ALS. Today, marijuana is the only thing that provides her relief.

"Other drugs don’t work or the side effects are so bad she doesn’t want to take them,” said her mom, Karin Abromaitis.

Her family struggles to find a doctor who will prescribe it.

"One of the major issues is people are afraid of it,” said Lindsay. “My primary care physician was really nervous about helping me."

The governor also wants to expand state law to make access for patients easier.

He wants the legislature to pass a bill that would increase the monthly medical marijuana purchase limit from 2 ounces to 4 ounces. And he wants the limit eliminated entirely for patients in hospice, which would have freed up Jake’s family to make him comfortable all month long.

Murphy also wants patients to be able to go to more than one treatment center.

And he wants edibles and home delivery to become a reality for patients.