Legislators in New Jersey want to add women's menstrual cramps to the list of ailments that can be treated or eased with medical marijuana products under state law.
If it passes, the bill, introduced by Democratic Assembly members Tim Eustace, L. Grace Spencer, and Angelica Jimenez, would make New Jersey the first state to specifically include period pain in its medical marijuana law.
Eustace said in a statement that denying women treatment for "dysmenorrhea," the medical term for period cramps, is New Jersey's failure to "acknowledge the serious impact it can have on [women's] wellness."
But his motivation behind the bill isn't completely altruistic. The $15 billion global feminine hygiene market is notoriously lucrative, and Eustace wants New Jersey to be the first state to cash in on pot products for women's menstrual cramps.
"From an economic standpoint, New Jersey is missing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue due to the restrictive nature of its medical marijuana law," Eustace added. "While this will affect women directly, the financial benefit ultimately will be positive for everyone in the state."
"For many women, the response to pain so severe that it causes them to vomit or faint is either 'just deal with it,' or a prescription drug," said Assemblywoman Jiminez in a statement. "We're talking about expanding our activity in one of the nation's fastest-growing industry."
The proposed bill coincides with actress Whoopi Goldberg's announcement that she is launching her own medical marijuana company designed for women who suffer from period pain. The company, Maya & Whoopi, is a joint venture with marijuana entrepreneur Maya Elisabeth. The company will offer four pot-infused products — chocolate cannabis edibles, tinctures, topical rubs, and a THC bath soak that is described as "profoundly relaxing." Goldberg said in a recent interview that the topical rub was "specifically just to get rid of discomfort" caused by menstrual cramps. "Smoking a joint is fine," Goldberg said. "But most people can't smoke a joint and go to work."
New Jersey's medical marijuana program was signed into law in 2010, but the restrictive nature of its laws mean that it's pot industry hasn't taken off like it has elsewhere in the country.
At the moment, there are only 6,466 people registered medical marijuana patients in the state, and only five of the six permitted treatment centers are up and running. Governor Chris Christie attributes the low numbers to a general lack of demand, and has previously described medical marijuana programs as "a front for legalization."
"People have this puritanical idea that it's a bunch of potheads sitting in these dispensaries, but there are some very sick patients in need," Eustace said.
New Jersey law says that a person's eligibility for medical marijuana has to be reassessed every 90 days. To prescribe medical pot, doctors have to register and take a special course, which can be expensive and time-consuming. The prices for medical marijuana are also through the roof — among the highest in the country — making it inaccessible to patients on Medicaid or similar insurance programs.
Under New Jersey law, the conditions which qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions include: Epilepsy, terminal cancer, HIV/AIDS or cancer which is accompanied by severe pain, multiple sclerosis, ALS, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, glaucoma, and intractable skeletal muscular spasticity.
A bill proposing to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol was introduced in January. According to a poll conducted by Rutgers University, 58 percent of New Jersey residents support marijuana regulation, instead of prohibition. Current New Jersey law says that possession of even the smallest quantities of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes can be punishable by up to six months in jail and a hefty $1,000 fine.