Playing by the rules of New Jersey’s struggling medical marijuana program has gotten a 64-year-old woman nothing but $500 in doctor bills and a $200 identification card she has yet to use.
New Jersey’s only licensed dispensary told her in the spring that they have been swamped and have not gotten to her name on the waiting list.
The 64-year-old woman suffers from stage four breast cancer and explained that marijuana “lessens the pain and gives me more of an appetite.” Unfortunately, due to the gross inefficiency of the system and poor management of the medical marijuana program in NJ, she has been forced to buy the drug illegally because she simply cannot afford to wait.
She told reporters, “This is a disgrace … I am upset and angry that I laid out $700 and I am not getting any answers. I am upset with the state, too, and they don’t seem to care.”
Patients and providers are just starting to see that the nation’s most restrictive medical marijuana program is also the most expensive.
New Jersey has mandatory registration fees along with required doctor visits that insurance will not cover. Aside from that, the high cost of the marijuana and the sales tax on it are usually far higher than what a person can afford to pay.
According to the Star Ledger, on the whole, these costs are higher than the other 10 states as well as Washington, D.C. that permit medical marijuana retail sales.
The Ledger did extensive research on the matter and discovered that NJ is tied for second for the costliest registration fee ($200 for two years), has the third-highest sales tax (7%), and the steepest marijuana prices.
Additionally, patients say they have spent from $440 to $560 for an ounce of marijuana, depending on the strain. No other state in the nation charges that much.
Likewise, a NJ patient getting started in the program can spend $700 for an ID card and an ounce of marijuana, compared with $300 in Colorado, $510 in Washington, D.C., $531 in Arizona, and $460 in Michigan.
Aside from this, New Jersey law limits the amount of dispensaries allowed to sell medical marijuana to six. This does not allow for much competition and those who truly cannot afford it are simply turning to less safe alternatives.
Some have suggested regulating marijuana dispensaries like life insurance companies in order to help lower costs. This, supposedly, would allow for a dispensary to be free from the tough restrictions of a non-profit entity while still allowing for the state to set prices and limits on profits.
Ultimately, with such high costs and lack of access, some are wondering if the entire battle to get medical marijuana legalized in New Jersey was really worth it.