New Jersey’s medical cannabis program is growing by 3,800 new patients monthly, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Health Medicinal Marijuana Program Jeff Brown told a crowd of cannabis industry folks in Edison Tuesday.
When he took his post in March 2018, the state’s canopy, or the cannabis it produced, included 45,000 plants that supported 2,000-3,000 pounds of cannabis on any given day for 13,000 patients. Two years and over 50,000 more patients later, state cannabis producers cultivate 260,000 plants, supporting 8,000 pounds of flower on the market.
Brown was the keynote at NJ Cannabis Insider Live at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center. Although the 2019 RFA process is currently paused by a court order, which he noted the Department of Health is abiding by, plenty is still going on behind the scenes at the DOH.
“The next thing on the docket is the ability for advanced practice nurses and physicians’ assistants to be able to authorize patients for cannabis. We hope to have that activity very soon,” Brown said.
The DOH is also looking into third-party lab testing for cannabis products, as products are currently only tested by the state laboratory.
There are three things that market really needs moving forward, Brown noted: Cultivation capacity, including from the currently established industry, needs to expand; there needs to be more access points for patients to get their cannabis; and “most importantly, this industry needs a singular focus on delivering value to patients.”
New Jersey medical cannabis patients face long drive times, dispensaries running out of products, and higher costs than elsewhere, the MMP found in its biennial report.
Conversely, there are things that the market doesn’t need, or needs to improve upon, Brown said.
“We need to stop treating the cannabis consumer as some monolithic thing. I hear some people say ‘the cannabis consumer likes this, or likes that.’ Especially as we move into adult use, there is a vast difference between someone who is prescribed by a doctor and someone who is using it because they like the effect,” he explained.
“Not all use is medical,” he said. “Some people use because it’s pleasurable.”
Brown said the supply chain also needs to move away from the vertically integrated model to allow for specialization, and finally, that people need to be more realistic about the risks of cannabis. Cannabis use disorder, he explained, affects 9 percent of cannabis users.