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New Jersey Cuts Cost Of Medical Marijuana Registration As Enrollment Declines



“Many patients face barriers to accessing treatment due to costs, like paying out of pocket for doctor’s visits and the cost of cannabis.”

By Sophie Nieto-Munoz, New Jersey Monitor

In an attempt to keep enrollment for medical marijuana patients from continuing to drop, the state cannabis agency has lowered registration costs to just $10 every two years, down from $50 for most patients.

Enrollment in the medical marijuana program has been declining since the state launched recreational marijuana sales in April 2022, officials with the Cannabis Regulatory Commission said at their meeting Thursday. The number of medical marijuana patients has tumbled to fewer than 94,000, down from 128,000 when recreational cannabis sales started, state data shows.

Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, said while medicinal sales drop, adult sales continue to grow at about 10 percent each quarter. Consumers spent about $206 million on cannabis in the third quarter of 2023, with nearly $177 million in recreational sales, the commission said. Medicinal sales totaled about $29 million in the third quarter of 2023, down from $61 million at the same time last year.

Brown said the move to drop the cost of registering in the medicinal program will “hopefully incentivize patients.”

“Many patients face barriers to accessing treatment due to costs, like paying out of pocket for doctor’s visits and the cost of cannabis. NJ-CRC is doing everything in our power to eliminate as many barriers as possible to ensure those who can benefit from cannabis treatment remain in the program,” Brown said in a statement.

The price change became effective immediately. Patients must still re-register every two years to remain in the program.

Medical users have historically used physical cards to show at dispensaries, and those cards will shift to digital in 2024.

Medical marijuana patients see some benefits compared to recreational users, including patient-only hours and parking at dispensaries, separate menus with different deals and strains, priority for product inventory and tax-free purchases. But prices for marijuana in New Jersey are still among the highest in the country, and taxes are among the lowest, which leaves little financial incentive for people to remain in the program.

An eighth of Ozone brand marijuana at Ascend in Fort Lee costs $65 on both the recreational and medicinal menus. At ZenLeaf in Lawrence, the cheapest eighth is $42.50 for medicinal users and $45 for recreational.

When medicinal marijuana sales launched in 2010, registration cost $200 biannually. Last year, the agency dropped that to $50 for most patients and $20 for seniors.

Longtime cannabis advocate Chris Goldstein, who previously served on the board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, said he doesn’t believe other states are seeing the same drop in the number of medical marijuana patients, and he slammed New Jersey dispensaries for “price gouging.” The lowest-priced eighth of medicinal weed in Pennsylvania costs $18, and the lowest price for patients in New Jersey is about $40.

“We’re talking about patients who are expected to pay three or four times as much as across the river to the same companies for the same products,” Goldstein said. “Consumers are not stupid. We look at menus across states.”

This story was first published by New Jersey Monitor.

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