Pubdate: Mon, 19 Jun 2017
Source: Herald News (West Paterson, NJ)
Copyright: 2017 North Jersey Media Group Inc.


Medical patients in severe pain seek comfort in a variety of ways.
Some remedies, they find, work better than others. Some medications,
they find, are less addictive than others. These are factors that must
be weighed as New Jersey considers the pros and cons of whether to
expand its list of "debilitating medical conditions" for those who
wish to participate in the state's medical marijuana program.

More than 12,500 residents have been registered under the program
since it was legalized in 2010, yet many more patients and caregivers
want to participate and say the state's existing rules are too
restrictive. We agree.

Many painful and stressful conditions that affect people every day
fall outside the state's narrow list of requirements to receive
medical marijuana. Adjustments should be made for the qualifying conditions.

As it stands, New Jersey is one of 28 states, plus the District of
Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, which have comprehensive medical
marijuana programs. Yet the state is one of the few on the list that
doesn't make an allowance for "chronic pain."

Though there are some exceptions, currently in New Jersey, patients
qualify for use under a fairly strict set of conditions, including
having been diagnosed and recommended by a doctor for treatment of Lou
Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular
dystrophy, inflammatory bowel movement or a terminal illness.

On Wednesday, a number of people appeared before the Medicinal
Marijuana Review Board in Trenton to make the case for expanding the
list of conditions for would-be medical marijuana users.

Among them was Hailey Neluna, a 22-year-old from Manahawkin, who
described how a 2015 diagnosis of lupus ended her career as a college
athlete. She said doctors prescribed her six different types of
medications, including high-dose steroids, to manage her pain.

"When I was taking all the medications I was on, I was not myself at
all," Neluna said. "I couldn't go out anywhere, I couldn't have
conversations with people and be able to function the way I normally
would be able to."

Neluna said she eventually had to turn to marijuana, which she
credited with enabling her to wean herself off four of the medications
and to graduate from Stockton University last year with a 3.7 grade
point average.

Meanwhile, a study that appeared in a 2014 issue of JAMA Internal
Medicine found that the annual number of deaths from prescription drug
overdoses was 25 percent lower in the states where it is legal to use
medical marijuana to treat chronic pain and other conditions.

While one study does not necessarily make for probability, and while
it could be months before the Department of Health amends the
program's rules, the state, in the name of practicality, should move
quickly to allow more suffering people the option of relief from
medical marijuana.
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