Dear Honorable Legislator,
I am writing you with concern for access to my medicine. Jake's Law passed over a year ago and legal medical cannabis has still been extremely difficult to access.
Many provisions to expand access have yet to be implemented and although the Department of Health maintains that there is no shortage of cannabis, there have been and currently are limits on what patients can purchase and what Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) offer.
Still there is no delivery or a significant amount of edible products that are seriously needed and many needed strains of cannabis are discontinued, not carried or sold in limited amounts.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, patients, many of which are immunocompromised, have had to wait in long lines, many times for hours, sometimes in extreme weather and without access to restroom facilities. Some patients can barely endure the ride to an often far away ATC, let alone sitting for hours and not all patients have caregivers who can help.
ATCs have had limited hours, limited dates for appointments, and some patients have been turned away without getting anything.
Patients are still overwhelmed by the cost of becoming a registered patient and obtaining legal cannabis. Lengthening recertification periods as a way to reduce costs to patients has not been adopted by some physicians and others are just charging more for less visits, not necessarily reducing the annual recertification cost.
Jeff Oakes is a patient that has a doctor's recommendation for an unlimited supply for his terminal condition, but there's no way he could fulfill it through ATCs alone with prices still at $400+ an ounce and patients can't even buy in ounces now. Having to make more trips and having to buy in smaller quantities is an added expense and keeps prices unnecessarily high.
Home cultivated cannabis offers affordability, availability, variety, quality control, and needed access to plant therapy. There are home systems now that make it easy, affordable and safe.
With unforeseen legal challenges and continued delays, waiting for industry expansion to offer competitive pricing is not the answer for needed affordable access now. Patients can no longer afford to wait and shouldn't have to bear the financial burden of industry expansion and suffer from lack of access when we're talking about a plant many can grow themselves.
It seems the supply issues are getting worse and will only continue to do so, if the state legalizes.
Shortages of legal cannabis are common after legalization, which can be devastating for patients and why all these states have some form of home cultivation provisions for patients, for access.
Illinois had 21 cultivators and 37 dispensaries when the adult-use law went into effect and shortages on cannabis are projected for a year or more. These numbers are double of what New Jersey has now and expansion will likely be slow. Patients there have found relief in being able to grow their own.
With the state looking to make revenue and anticipating out-of-state-sales, a supply agreement from ATCs is of little assurance when they're already not providing for 100K patients now. Many patients are dissatisfied with some of the state licensed growers and patronizing alternative treatment centers as the only legal means to obtain cannabis is unjust and inadequate.
There are many people in the state who are suffering from serious conditions that this medicine helps and the state should not continue to make it so difficult for them to get it. Keeping a medicinal plant illegal to grow by those with medical necessity is the opposite of compassion.
Currently possessing any number of plants in New Jersey is a felony and an arrest alone can be a death sentence for some patients. So far this provision has been left out of serious consideration out of fear of rise in the illicit market, but from what I've seen most illicit products in the state come from out of state and with six plants for registered patients and caregivers there is little room for diversion and it would not have much of an effect on the legal market. Putting industry, illicit or otherwise before patients' needs is really what the crime is here.
The benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to this access. It's about lives saved, not dollars lost by the state or industry.
A simple program, where patients can grow six plants for themselves and six for another patient as a caregiver or a caregiver can grow for one or two patients, having a total of twelve plants per household is an agreeable solution and consistent with other states' laws.
In light of all of this, I ask that you please support a bill for this provision to ensure access to medical cannabis. Please respond to me to discuss.
With an overwhelming majority of legislators voting for expanded access to medical cannabis through Jake's Law, we believe there is support for this provision at this time and we are asking for your support in this matter.
Many patients have signed on to a petition asking for this access and many signers are in your district.