As the deadline set by Gov. Murphy to have the bill to legalize recreational cannabis passed approaches, the Department of Health has released the proposed rule changes which will see the medical cannabis program expanded. The program was due to be expanded at the same time as the legalization of recreational weed, but that seems to be failing as lawmakers fail to convince 2-5 other senators to support full legalization.
The rule changes are broadly aimed at improving access to medical marijuana. For example, there is a provision that will see the registration fee for patients and caregivers reduced to $100 from the current $200.
The new rules will also see veterans and seniors included among the categories of people who will pay a reduced fee of $20 when they apply to get a medical marijuana card. This will make access to the program more affordable for these groups of people.
When the new rules take effect, patients will now designate two people as primary caregivers instead of just one as was the case before. Having two authorized primary caregivers ensures that patients can still access medical marijuana even when one caregiver is indisposed.
The new rules will also allow more forms of medical marijuana to become available in the state. These include oil-based products, such as vape cartridges.
Currently, minors must undergo a psychiatric evaluation before a physician can certify or recommend medical marijuana for such patients. The new rules will remove this requirement, thereby easing the process of accessing medical marijuana by people who are underage.
The proposed rules will also see the addition of seven more conditions to the original list of medical marijuana qualifying conditions. The new ones include anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain and opioid use disorder. The expansion of the qualifying conditions will give more patients access to medical marijuana.
The drafters of the new rules have also included provisions which will reform the way permits are issued for cultivation, processing and dispensing medical marijuana. Currently, all permits are issued using the same system. This is going to change since the new rules provide for separate permitting systems for those different aspects of the industry.
Physicians will also be allowed to opt out of a list that is made available to the public showing which medical professionals have been approved to prescribe medical marijuana.
If Gov. Phil Murphy makes good on his threat, the new rules will be considered in a standalone bill separate from the one legalizing recreational cannabis. Unlike recreational weed which has attracted strong opposition, the lawmakers are in agreement regarding the expansion of the medical marijuana program and passing the medical marijuana bill will, in effect, make it harder to legalize recreational cannabis.
VPR Brands LP (OTC: VPRB) and VIVO Cannabis Inc. (TSX.V: VIVO) (OTCQX: VVCIF) hope that the lawmakers will find a middle ground that will see the expansion of the medical cannabis program and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
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