Lawmakers are working to reduce the high cost of medical cannabis for New Jerseyans who participate in grant programs for children, seniors, and crime victims.

The Senate Health Committee approved the new bill (S3799) on Thursday afternoon. It released a meeting committee last week.

“The cost of medical cannabis is just out of reach for some people,” said Senator Joe Vitale, who sponsored the bill, during the hearing. “In most cases, this would be someone who would qualify for financial reasons or because of an injury suffered.”

New Jersey has some of the highest medical cannabis costs in the country, averaging $ 350 to $ 500 an ounce. This is mainly due to a slow expansion of the program which has kept competition to a minimum as demand soared.

The health insurance companies do not cover the costs because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

The bill, introduced last month, would require the following funds to cover medical cannabis costs:

  • Catastrophic illness in the children’s aid fund
  • Pharmaceutical Aid for Elderly and Disabled People (PAAD)
  • Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program
  • Compensation Office for Victims of Crime (VCCO)

Any fund would support cannabis costs, but not necessarily cover them in full. The PAAD and Seniors programs would reimburse pharmacies for medical expenses after a person pays a co-payment or reaches a maximum deductible.

The bill also makes medical cannabis a recoverable cost item as a victim of a crime.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission and Human Services Commissioner could limit the amount of cannabis eligible for the PAAD and Senior Gold programs under the law to 30 days.

Rep. Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, who sponsored the bill, said during a congregation health committee that the programs included are state-run so the reimbursement of cannabis costs does not conflict with federal law.

“These programs serve those who are often at least in financial need,” he said during the committee hearing. “The aim is to ensure that the benefits of medical cannabis are available to all who may need it.”

Another bill that would mandate personal injury and workers’ compensation insurance to cover medical marijuana was brought through the congregation but stalled in the Senate.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in April that medical cannabis was eligible for employee compensation costs.

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Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj.