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Interest High, But Only 18 NJ Residents Are Registered For Use Of Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana (file/credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Medical Marijuana (file/credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Although medical marijuana use has been legalized by the state of New Jersey, there has not been a high volume of user registration for the program.

State Health Department officials say that since registration opened on Aug. 9, 18 patients have signed up for permission to use the drug, which is otherwise illegal.

“There’s more than 18 of them out there buying their marijuana underground, I can guarantee that,” Chris Goldstein with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports

“Unfortunately we’re not surprised to see that just a few seriously ill patients have been able to access the most restricted medical marijuana program in the country,” Goldstein told Putney. “So nobody has made it easy for seriously ill residents,” Goldstein added.

Under New Jersey’s procedures, a patient can submit an application only after a physician has declared he or she meets the qualifications. The state says 44 patients have been declared eligible by doctors so far.

“New Jersey has the only doctor and physician registry in the country where there is a preset list of doctors who can recommend patients,” Goldstein told Putney.

“In other states, they’ve really made it compelling for seriously ill people to join the program. In New Jersy, they’ve basically made it to keep seriously ill residents out of the program so they’ll just stay underground and they’ve be vulnerable to arrest,” Goldstein added.

While the state hasn’t been swamped with applications, there are indications that interest is high. Between Aug. 9 and Tuesday, about 8,400 people visited the state’s medical marijuana website.

The state’s first legal dispensary, in Montclair, is scheduled to open to patients next month.

Until then, Goldstein warned medical marijuana patients may continue to rely on illegal means to get the drug.

“Most patients who are pragmatic are probably just going to stay underground, they’re going to try to not get arrested,” Goldstein said.

New Jersey is one of 16 states, along with the District of Columbia, that allows the use of medical marijuana.

Do you qualify for medical marijuana use in NJ? Will you register to use? Share your comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)