An in-depth review by the New Jersey Star-Ledger has revealed that the overall cost for medical marijuana patients in New Jersey is higher than any other medical pot state allowing retail sales.

The costs analyzed involve patients becoming legally eligible for medical marijuana as well as obtaining their medicine.

The report profiled pot patient Suzette Roberts, who said she has spent $700 total for required physician visits ($500) and a Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) ID card ($200, covering two years), but has yet to obtain a single gram of medicine because New Jersey's first dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, is backlogged with other patients waiting for medicine.

The 64-year-old Roberts admitted she currently obtains her medicine illegally to augment treatment of her stage 4 breast cancer. If Ms. Roberts lived in California, she would have been approved to use medical cannabis for less than $50 and purchased her medicine that same day. 

New Jersey's aforementioned registration fee is tied for second highest in the U.S. and the state imposes the third-highest cannabis sales tax (seven percent). Greenleaf reportedly charges between $440 and $560 an ounce, by far the highest in the nation, with the District of Columbia, which just opened its first dispensary last week coming in a distant second with a high of $440 an ounce.

Again, by comparison, at the Southern California House of Ounces dispensary, a patient can obtain a quarter-pound (four ounces) of Chem Dog for only $420.

The cost of $700 for an MMP card and an ounce of marijuana in New Jersey (not including the costs of required physician visits, which are not covered by insurance) is excessively higher than the equivalent in Colorado ($300), Michigan ($460), and even Arizona ($531), which has also experienced internal conflict in trying to establish their own medical pot program.

According to the Star-Ledger, patient Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill, NJ, spent almost $1,000 total before taking a puff of medical pot.

Only 127 of the 1,000 registered New Jersey pot patients have actually received medicine from a dispensary. As a result, many patients feel they've been defrauded by the MMP as they still must rely on the black market after paying $200 for a card that entitles them to legal cannabis.  

New Jersey patients are hopeful that some of the backlog will be reduced when the state’s second dispensary, Compassionate Care Foundation of Egg Harbor Township, opens this fall.

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