3/25/20 By DAN ULLOA
The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) announced waivers to ease the great stress on the state’s medical marijuana program due to the Coronavirus.
They will allow curbside pickup whereby medical marijuana is delivered to a patient as they wait in their car, known as curbside service. In addition, the NJDOH is reducing caregiver fees to $20. The fee was previously $100.
The waivers went into effect immediately. However, these are likely temporary measures.
“Our actions today will ensure that over 73,000 patients continue to have access to the products they need to treat their conditions, while also helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “By reducing caregiver registration fees and allowing curbside dispensing, the Department is protecting patients during this public health crisis, increasing access to caregivers who can assist patients, and empowering ATCs to enact social distancing policies while maintaining their role as essential businesses.”
Dispensaries seeking to implement curbside delivery must submit a curbside delivery procedure plan to the NJDOH and their local police department.
Caregivers are individuals designated by patients to purchase cannabis on their behalf.
The NJDOH has also waived in-person visits to doctors for certification and allowed telemedicine essentially. This is precisely what the legislature has been debating recently.
Another issue that seems especially important right now is that of the home cultivation of cannabis, popularly known as “homegrow”. Homegrow is an exceedingly contentious topic in New Jersey. Activists have been pushing for its inclusion in New Jersey’s Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) since before that bill was signed into law. It has great support among activists and patients across the state. Activists have named their recent campaign for homegrow “Jeff’s Law” after long-time medical cannabis activist Jeff Oakes.
NJDOH Coping With the Pandemic
The advent of the Coronavirus has made it exceedingly difficult for patients to obtain their medical marijuana (or clinical cannabis). People have reported waiting online for hours in uncomfortable situations. Patients with issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS) have been denied access to the bathrooms.
Both the Breakwater dispensary in Cranbury and the Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus have been forced to close for at least a day, likely due to the excess traffic they received. Harmony is now only doing curbside delivery it seems.
“During these unprecedented times, it is our mission to deliver the highest quality medical cannabis to our patients as safely and conveniently as possible. With this in mind, and in accordance with New Jersey Department of Health guidelines, Harmony has temporarily closed our retail store until further notice and is preparing to launch a curbside pickup option for patients,” their website reads.
The amount of patients in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has jumped from around 71,000 to now including 73,000 patients.
Officials labeled Coronavirus as an official “pandemic” recently.
While not much has happened recently, that is likely due to the pending lawsuits regarding the state medical marijuana dispensaries. And because the Cannabis Regulatory Commission is supposed to take over from the NJDOH, it makes sense there have not been any major announcements in some months.