New Jersey Must Issue Medical Marijuana Progress Report

An appeals court has ordered New Jersey to produce a report on the status of its medical marijuana program, including an update on several dispensaries that have been seeking final approval to open for the past three years.

The move could shed light on why the state has taken so long to fully implement its medical marijuana law. It also could spur discussions about expanding the program to include more qualifying medical conditions, which could help boost patient numbers, and additional cultivation operations.

The court ruling is tied to a lawsuit over delays in the dispensary licensing process and difficulties patients experienced in registering for the program.

New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010, but the first dispensary didn’t open until late 2012, and two more just opened in recent months. Another three groups that received tentative approval for licenses in 2011 are still trying to get the final go-ahead to open. Just 1,600 patients have received medical marijuana cards.

The appeals court ruled partially in favor of the plaintiffs, saying that the state has failed to file detailed progress reports about the program, as required by law. The first report was supposed to be issued in 2011, and the state was also supposed to consider expanding the number of qualifying medical conditions but has not yet done so.

To comply with the ruling, officials must issue a report in 45 days detailing how they have implemented New Jersey’s medical marijuana program and address whether there is enough supply to meet demand. They also must explain the status of the three dispensaries still trying to open.

The court, however, shot down claims in the lawsuit that the health department had ignored its responsibilities or intentionally delayed the opening of dispensaries.