New Jersey Medical Marijuana

I have lived in New Jersey most of my life. I love that I am an hour from New York and I am lucky enough to literally live on the shore. I’ve got access to both salt and fresh water and there is so much culture and energy. I moved away for school, but as soon as I was able to come back, I did. There is something about New Jersey that just makes it “HOME”, ya know?

The down side to the New Jersey medical marijuana program, is it is so expensive. I’m disabled, low-fixed income. In New Jersey, none of the alternative treatment doctors I have been able to find accept ANY form of insurance. So, you have to pay to see your doctor, out of pocket. Now, with few exceptions that I have found, no insurance company is going to cover the cost of your medical marijuana, so, you have to pay for that yourself too, and ok, I knew I would have to pay for my medicine, but I didn’t realize what I would pay for it. I saw how in some parts of the country you can get a medical gram for $12, Colorado has special promotions all the time, same with Washington and California where it’s like they are giving it away! There are coops too, where farmers grow for chronic and terminal patients out of the kindness of their heart on sliding scale fees so that patients don’t suffer.

In New Jersey, all we have direct access to is actual marijuana flower. We don’t have oil, edibles, tinctures or really any other delivery method other than bud. Depending on your ATC (alternative treatment center) you will have the choice of nuggets, shake or pre-rolled joints. How’s that for selection and choice? You can’t grow your own either and since you can only get bud in the dispensaries, if you’re caught with anything but that on you, doesn’t matter if you have a card, its illegal here so you’re not supposed to have it. I’m working on talking with all the ATC’s in my state so I can get all their prices and menus, but New Jersey doesn’t have many, and they’re all spread out so chances of actually living close to a good center is low. The one closest to me is the most expensive in the state from what I have heard from fellow patients. Some people have to go there because they can’t get to any other center because of their conditions. Patients are forced to pay more for their medicine because of where they live and the fact that the ATC’s control their own prices.

I found a great ATC with excellent bud, great staff and that offers a discount to folks with low/fixed income. That 20% really helps me make my money go further, but it is an hour and a half away from me. It isn’t easy for me to get down there because it is a long drive. It is seriously a day trip! Three hours round trip and that is if I don’t count the time I am in the ATC. Getting in is a process too, anyone who visits an ATC will tell you that. You’ve got to check in, they verify your script, and there is only allowed to one patient per bud tender permitted in the dispensary at a time, so sometimes you have to sit in the waiting room. All that time adds up fast, and then, if you’re like me and don’t live local to the atc, you’ve got to wait an hour and half before you can take your new meds, because it’s illegal to smoke in the car while it’s moving and if you’re car smells, they’ll give you a hard time for it if you get caught. For me, by the time I get home, I can’t even function. I feel like that is just so unfair.

I have encountered a lot of bumps in this process. I have been blacked out for months for one issue or another, and I pay the price for that.

NJ's Complex MMJ process not patient friendly

NJ’s Complex MMJ process not patient friendly

Let me break down what you pay for in New Jersey, briefly:

  • Doctors’ visits ($500+ initial visit)
  • Application (I don’t remember what it was, it was wrapped in to another fee at the doctor’s office)
  • License ($200 every two years unless you have food stamps, then you get a discount)
  • Medicine (Nj is a 2oz max, at the dispensary closest to me, it is $530 give or take an ounce)
  • Keeping your script open ($100 every 3 months just to have the ability to go to an ATC)

I am still learning and have found that dealing with the people in this state who work in this program is not easy. After moving it took two months to get my address change corrected and I couldn’t go to an ATC that whole time, but I paid for that time, so for two months I didn’t have access, but I still had to pay for it. Currently I don’t have access again, because my $100 is due and I don’t have it, because I’ve spent it on time that my card was deactivated! I’m in a catch 22, because if I pay the $100 to go to the ATC, I don’t have money to actually buy anything at the ATC.

Medical Marijuana has given me back my life, but the high cost of medical marijuana in this state is literally going to break the bank for me. And since I don’t have access to other means of medicating, my money doesn’t really do the most it could for me, as it would if I could buy edibles, oils, tinctures, hash pills, concentrates etc.… I’m limited to smoking only, which isn’t always convenient.

Being in New Jersey, I feel like we have enough access that the state can consider itself “progressive” but it isn’t really doing any of the sick and suffering any favors. You have to jump through a million hoops to get approved, then pay a bunch of money to obtain LEGAL medical grade marijuana (which isn’t always as high quality as they say or the pre-weighed packages are short). They don’t allow patients to grow, and they make it hard for growers to set up shop, for dispensaries to open and for patients to have affordable and reasonable access. I feel boxed in. I feel like the only way to truly have a fulfilling life is to leave New Jersey and move to a state with more options and more affordable and expansive access. It makes me sad that I have to choose between “home” and health. 

Lacey's Fav ATC

Lacey’s Fav ATC

New Jersey needs medical marijuana reform, and now! I know that I’m not the only MMJ patient who feels this way. Most of the people I know are for legalization and better access, even if they personally don’t use marijuana. People generally, in my opinion, want patients to be happy and not suffer. If marijuana helps someone suffer a little less, then most folks think that people should have that option without all the hoops, fees and stress. Why does the government have to make you feel like a criminal for wanting to have access to a plant? It’s just a plant, but it is so much more than that too. I feel like you can’t truly make nature illegal, that’s like deciding Oranges are illegal.