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Senate Health Committee Advances Bill to Improve Access to Medical Cannabis for Eligible Patients

Trenton – In an effort to improve patients’ access to medical cannabis and make it affordable for New Jerseyans, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Patrick Diegnan that would require certain state-funded prescription drug plans as well as the children’s medical relief fund to cover the cost of dispensing the drug to those eligible.


Specifically, the bill, S-313, would require the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, the “Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled” (PAAD) program, the “Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program,” and the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) to cover the cost of medical cannabis for a registered qualifying patient eligible for or receiving benefits under any of those programs.


These programs would help patients fill the gap left by insurance providers who don’t offer coverage for medical cannabis in part because of the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I illegal substance.


“Those patients who gain relief from chronic pain or discomfort through the use of medical cannabis cut across a wide swath of our population, and yet the cost of the drug can be exorbitantly expensive for many people who rely on it most,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.


Medical cannabis has been shown to have possible benefits for several serious and chronic conditions including: epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; post-traumatic stress disorder; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; cancer; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; multiple sclerosis; muscular dystrophy; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease; anxiety; migraine; Tourette’s syndrome; dysmenorrhea; chronic pain; and opioid use disorder.


“The idea behind making medical cannabis legal in the first place was to give patients greater access to therapeutic properties the drug can provide, and to treatment they might not otherwise receive. This legislation makes sure that access is not denied simply because someone, or their provider, might not have the financial wherewithal to pay the market price for the drug,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex).