Which will come first in New Jersey — legalized recreational weed or an even bigger expansion to the state's medical marijuana program?

As of now, it's still possible they move ahead at the same time.

While top lawmakers predict marijuana legalization will be the next big issue they tackle — possibly by Labor Day — a wholesale change to the state's medicinal marijuana program awaits another hearing in the Legislature.

Any medical condition may be treated by medicinal marijuana under the proposed changes cleared by an Assembly committee in March. The bill also gets rid of the requirement that physicians register to be part of the program.

According to a July 2 update from the Murphy administration, about 700 of New Jersey's 28,000 licensed physicians are registered to participate. The state is making an effort to encourage the medical community to embrace medical marijuana as a tool in their practice.

"There are some additional steps involved in that, so I think that still kind of deters a lot of physicians from doing so," said attorney Georgee Thevervelil, who handles physician clients with Flaster Greenberg in Cherry Hill.

"The process is still onerous; it hasn't simplified," he said.

Since Gov. Phil Murphy took office in January, at least 10,000 patients have joined the medical marijuana program. Most took advantage of the six new eligible conditions added in March, such as migraines and anxiety.

On June 18, the state's sixth dispensary opened its doors, and several satellite Alternative Treatment Center locations are in the works.

It's still up for debate whether medical and recreational marijuana will be advanced together or as separate bills.

Besides eliminating the registration requirement for doctors, and letting medical marijuana treat any appropriate conditions, the game-changing legislation would also:

  • double the maximum amount of medical marijuana that may be dispensed to a patient over a 30-day period
  • remove a provision that limited a minor's marijuana use to edible forms
  • allow patients to retrieve marijuana from any dispensary
  • allow for 40 total dispensaries and 12 total cultivator-processors

“The prime purpose of this bill is to have great patient access for medicinal marijuana and to have less burdens for physicians enrolling into the program," said bill sponsor Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton).

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