The New Jersey Senate Health Committee passed a medical cannabis-related bill (S3799) on Thursday to provide financial support programs for children, seniors, and crime victims in need of medical cannabis treatment reported nj.com.
The Garden State has among the most expensive medical cannabis programs in the country with an ounce costing anywhere from $350 to $500 on average. This can be explained by the sluggish development of the state's medical marijuana program that minimized competition while the demand exploded, according to the outlet.
In that health insurance does not cover the cost of medical cannabis because it is still illegal at the federal level, many patients in need cannot afford to pay for it on their own.
“The cost of medical cannabis, for some people, it’s just not within reach,” Sen. Joe Vitale, who sponsored the bill, said during the hearing. “In most cases, this would be someone who would qualify because of financial reasons or because of an injury they suffered.”
The Bill's Details
The bill, which was presented in May and passed an Assembly committee last week, calls for funding to cover medical cannabis costs. Those include:
- Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund
- Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) program
- Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program
- Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO)
It is important to note that while each fund should help pay the costs under the bill, it does not require full coverage. For example, PAAD and the senior program would refund dispensaries for medical cannabis products after a patient has paid a copay or provided as much as they can, reported nj.com.
Furthermore, crime victims are also protected by this bill, allowing them to receive reimbursement for medical cannabis costs.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission and Human Services Commissioner will likely establish a 30-day limit on the amount eligible for the PAAD and Senior Gold programs.
It Does Not Interfere With Federal Law
Another bill sponsored by assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) noted that since the programs selected under the bill are state-run, refunding medical cannabis expenses should not interfere with the federal law.
“These programs service those who are often, at least, somewhat financially distressed,” said Conaway during the committee hearing. “The goal is to ensure that the benefits of medical cannabis are available to all who may need it.”
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