New Jersey Medical Cannabis Patients Plunge 40% In 2 Years From 129,369 to 78,045 registered individuals

Here’s a report from North Jersey.com detailing what they believe to be the issues and reasons

TRENTON — Early 2022 was a great time for medical marijuana patients.

Before the first adult-use cannabis sales began, a medical marijuana card was the only way to legally purchase marijuana in New Jersey. And even when those first few dispensaries opened for recreational customers, they were required to offer extended hours, private parking and skip-the-line privileges to patients – all 129,369 of them, as of May 2022.

But as the number of dispensaries skyrocketed, those benefits don’t mean as much to many patients. Their only benefits – tax-free purchases and a 3 oz. allotment – are essentially wiped out by the state’s low cannabis taxes and legal loophole allowing anyone to purchase 1 oz. of cannabis per day.

As of May 15, there were only 78,045 registered medical marijuana patients in New Jersey, a 40% loss in two years. And while some level of drop-off was expected after legal weed sales began, since passive or recreational users no longer required a card, the results are staggering compared to states like Michigan, which saw its patient rolls decrease just 11% in the first two years of adult use, and Massachusetts, which actually saw an increase to its patient rolls.

In an interview, New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission Interim Executive Director Chris Riggs said he expected patient numbers to eventually go back up, especially after adopting rules allowing for “clinical registrants,” who could grow and distribute cannabis but also conduct clinical research trials on state-licensed cannabis products.

“Patients are obviously the most important piece for the CRC. This is how legalization started,” Riggs said. “When you have these more research-focused ATCs (alternative treatment centers), you’ll start to see those patient numbers go up.”

In the meantime, officials can enact other changes that would encourage new patients to enroll.

Here are a few of the options on the table.

Legislate away the high prices

The price of cannabis in New Jersey is undeniably dropping. It’s also still among the most expensive in the country.

These two facts aren’t mutually exclusive. According to the state, medical marijuana sold for an average of $10.48 per gram in February 2024, down from $11.75 per gram in February 2024 (adult-use cannabis sold for $12.22 per gram).

In Massachusetts, cannabis sold for an average $5.32 per gram in February.

It’s not surprising that medical marijuana patients are more likely to purchase cannabis from the black market than rely on the state’s licensed industry, even with dispensaries opening across the state virtually every week.

“The ability to buy more is wonderful but, if the prices are still super high, it doesn’t offer too much relief,” said Mike Vintzileos, a medical marijuana patient and advocate. “Most patients I talk to don’t even really frequent the dispensaries – that’s part of why they dropped out of the program. They can buy off a friend for a better price.”

There are potential solutions on the table in Trenton, a series of bills sponsored by Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington.

S2921 would allow the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission to implement a six-month price cap on any medical marijuana cultivator, manufacturer or dispensary if it determines “that the prices of such an entity are unreasonable and inconsistent with the actual costs incurred.”

The bill seems to target multi-state operators growing and selling cannabis in different states. At a Curaleaf dispensary in Philadelphia, for example, the same house brands of cannabis are selling for roughly $10 cheaper than the company’s dispensary in Bellmawr, less than 10 miles away. (The price gap is smaller when accounting for taxes.)

Another bill, S2828, would require the state to subsidize up to 20% of cannabis purchases for medical marijuana patients enrolled in Medicaid or New Jersey Family Care.

That would be a help to some patients, but doesn’t go far enough, Mount Laurel medical marijuana patient Doug Cooper said.

“Medication is medication,” he said. “You can’t say one person gets less or more. Everyone has a challenge.”

Read more at  https://eu.northjersey.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/marijuana/2024/05/28/nj-medical-marijuana-dispensary-near-me-cannabis/73763771007/

 

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