Registration for identification cards for patients in New Jersey whose doctors advised prescribed medical marijuana begins today, according to a published report.
As officials with the Garden State prepare to open the state's first legal dispensary next month, the state health commissioner said the Thursday registration will set a precedent for relations between the agency and the people it serves, according to The Associated Press.
"It's the first time the department will be interacting directly with potential patients and their caregivers," Mary O'Dowd with the New Jersey Department of Health told the news service on Wednesday.
Despite federal laws prohibiting the selling and ingesting of marijuana, 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized use of the herb for some patients.
Officials in New Jersey have been proceeding with caution regarding the allowance of use of medical marijuana as they pursue what they termed the "medical model."
Though the law was enacted in January 2010, no patients have acquired marijuana legally as of yet.
Those patients who qualify for medical marijuana include those suffering from the symptoms of maladies and sicknesses such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and terminal cancer.
Valid recommendations for use of cannabis come from physicians whom the patients have seen for at least 12 months and who have registered with New Jersey.
Thus far, roughly 150 doctors have signed on to legally recommend medical marijuana.
The procedure calls for doctors to enter patients' information into a state computer system, which will generate an identification number.
The patients then use that identification number to fulfill the process.
Costing $200, the registration card lasts 24 months. Patients who are seeking medical marijuana and are on programs for public assistance like Medicare and Medicaid will be charged $20 for the identification card.
Following completion of the paperwork, New Jersey has five days to send patient ID cards via the postal service. That card then may be used to purchase medical marijuana at state dispensaries.
The identification card also serves as a validation should a police officer find the patient in possession of marijuana.
The first dispensary is projected to be the Greenleaf Compassion Center, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Montclair-based facility said earlier this year that it was aiming to harvest a crop of marijuana in September.
Another dispensary is being planned to open in October in Egg Harbor, the publication states.