Garden Staters slow to toke their meds

Posted: August 16, 2012

TRENTON - Only 18 people have signed up for New Jersey's medical-marijuana registry, but advocates of the program say that's no surprise to them.

The state Department of Health says that 44 patients have been declared eligible for the program, which began last Thursday, but as of Wednesday only 18 of them have signed up for permission to use the drug legally. Under the state's procedures, a patient can apply only after a physician has declared that he or she meets the qualifications.

The number of early registrations is far lower than in Arizona, where 718 people applied to use medical marijuana in the first week the program opened there in April 2011.

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey says that the state's list of conditions is too restrictive, that the prices of medical marijuana will be too expensive, that the drug in the program will be too weak and that too few doctors are registered to recommend pot to patients.

"Patients meanwhile are going on the underground market," said Chris Goldstein, a spokesman for the advocacy group. "It's not like they're not accessing medicine out there." He said patients who want legal protections for using pot would be better off moving to a state with a less restrictive program, such as Rhode Island or Maine.

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