New Jersey is seeking to double its number of medical marijuana dispensaries, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
Murphy said in a statement that the state is requesting applications for six new dispensaries, up from the six that now operate in the state.
The program has grown under the Democratic governor, who has vowed to expand it. Officials say 10,000 new patients have become eligible under the program since January, bringing the total to 25,000.
The freshman governor, who took over this year from marijuana critic Republican Chris Christie, cast the expansion as part of an effort to meet patient demand.
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"We look forward to the opening of six new dispensaries so we can ensure that all qualifying patients who want access to medicinal marijuana can have it," Murphy said.
According to Murphy, applicants must operate a dispensary that cultivates and manufactures medical cannabis. The facility can be for-profit or a nonprofit and must file a business plan along with a budget specifying revenues and expenses over five years, the administration said.
Murphy said the six current dispensaries won't be eligible to apply in this additional process. The governor said there would be two new locations in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.
The existing facilities may already apply to set up satellite locations, according to the Health Department, but the call for new applications applies to facilities that combine cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing in one business.
The expansion comes as the state considers legalizing recreational marijuana, though legislation has, so far, failed to move through the Democrat-led Legislature.
Murphy has already moved to expand the state's medical marijuana program.
In March, his administration added five conditions to be eligible for medical marijuana: anxiety, migraines, Tourette's syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders and chronic visceral pain.
New Jersey started its program about a decade ago under Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, but it was slowly implemented under Christie, who had a skeptical view of marijuana.
Murphy also lowered the patient fee to participate in the program from $200 to $100, with a $20 rate for veterans and seniors.
The governor also allowed doctors who prescribe marijuana not to appear on a public registry. Murphy has said there was a sense that doctors who prescribed the drug faced a stigma.
The administration says applications would be accepted electronically until Aug. 7. Those chosen to proceed will be announced Nov. 1.