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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 more affordable for New Jerseyans who need it, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Committee Chair Senator Joe Vitale 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 for those who are eligible.

Specifically, the bill, S-3799, 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 marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“Patients in New Jersey who gain relief from 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. “We must stress that these are all state-run programs, and thus would not be subject to any federal insurance statutes, or other health coverage issues.”

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.