Remember medical marijuana? Today it's back in a big way: the NJ Department of Health is opening up a marijuana registry list so seriously sick patients who want the wacky weed to take away their pain will get an ID card to buy the stuff.
The patient or a caregiver can now sign up with the state, pay a $200 fee, and be legally entitled to purchase pot for their illness through the Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP).
The problem, though, is that there isn't any place in New Jersey where you can legally buy pot - at least, not any place that resembles a medical dispensary. That's because the same law that enabled the use of marijuana for chronic, even terminal, illnesses established Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC) where pot can be purchased.
But for a variety of reasons, none of the ATCs established by law two years is yet set up to sell the drug. In many instances, they don't even appear to have a street address.
And you can't go to just any doctor to get a pot prescription. Physicians who want to prescribe marijuana have to register with the state first.
While there is a complete dearth of ATCs where you can buy pot, there are a respectable number of doctors statewide who have signed up to be allowed to write pot prescriptions.
In Middlesex County alone there are 11, with most in Edison. There are two physicians in who signed up with the Marijuana Registry: Dr. Ramesh Raju in Iselin and Dr. Asma Siddiqui in Avenel.
In order to get an identification card, patients must submit a photograph, proof of current New Jersey residency, proof of identification by providing a copy of government-issued photo identification and, if applicable, documentation of receipt of certain state and federal assistance programs. The MMP will verify this information and if the applicant is approved, the patient will be instructed on how to pay $200 for the privilege of buying pot.
The ID is valid for two years.
The poor, though, may also have a crack at buying marijuana for pain. Those on some state and federal assistance programs may qualify to pay a reduced registration fee of $20.
Patients also have to suffer from one of the approved medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be used. The illnesses and maladies include: terminal cancer (and any disease where a doctors says you have less than a year to live); multiple sclerosis; Lou Gehrig's Disease; AIDS; and other conditions.
Since pot is touted to help those with glaucoma, that's also on the approved disease list for medical marijuana dispensing.
Does all this regulation to toke a joint seem a bit like overkill? Take our poll and tell us what you think as the Garden State lurches toward the point where the sick will be able to legally buy marijuana to help with their pain.
(Those who want to sign up with the patient registry can go to the Dept. of Health's Medicinal Marijuana Program webpage.)