In New Jersey, almost a dozen medical disorders are presently approved for treatment with medical cannabis. A panel of medical experts is considering adding to that list. Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey stated, “Chronic pain is the most frequent reason that patients use it in states where it’s allowed. I’m going to challenge the panel to justify how you can allow it for cancer and AIDS and not any other condition that is accompanied by chronic pain.” The eight-person medical cannabis review panel is chaired by Dr. Alex Bekker of University Hospital in Newark.

Bekker stated, “Most of us have some opinion already; reviewed literature, available evidence, especially for a condition like chronic pain. I think there’s a sufficient amount of evidence and documentations that medical marijuana can be very helpful.” Today’s public hearing is the first time a panel convened by the Health Department is considering whether to expand the qualifications to use medical cannabis in the history of the state’s seven-year program. Panelists heard from residents suffering from Tourette syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines, and other conditions.

Maddie Pucciarello who has Tourette syndrome stated, “My tics are both physically and mentally exhausting. When I tic, I cannot focus on anything else. It causes me to get distracted very easily and miss what’s going on around me. When I used cannabis for the first time, I felt like a completely new person. My tics lessened immediately and for a few hours, I felt like I could do anything.”

Keisha Sanchez said, “Sometimes it feels as if somebody has taken a can of gasoline and they poured it on my body and they lit me on fire. It is that intense. But yet, RSD is not on the list for medical marijuana, or the use of it.”

Cynthia O’Mullas whose son has disabilities said, “He seizes all night long and like I said, he has horrific anxiety. His life’s a pure hell. I started him on cannabis in January, and today, he’s standing before you smiling.”

Governor Chris Christie approved the use of medical cannabis to treat PTSD in 2016. Residents argued for expanding access to the program again, saying it could help stem the state’s opioid epidemic. Medical marijuana advocate Andrew Liberte stated, “Our current policy toward chronic pain, opioids and cannabis in this state, the whole country and the whole world even is literally making the opiate problem worse for most people.”

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