Sweeping Medical-Marijuana Expansion Enacted in New Jersey
The medical marijuana program in New Jersey was recently expanded to accommodate more patients and allow for more dispensaries. Assembly Bill 20, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on July 2, significantly amended the state’s medical-marijuana program, previously considered one of the country’s most restrictive.
The Highlight Include:
- Adds conditions like chronic pain, epilepsy and menstrual cramps to the current list.
- Physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners can prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
- Hospitals are allowed to obtain cannabis for patients.
- Patients only have to visit their doctor once a year for authorization instead of every three months.
- Patients can purchase three ounces a month rather than two.
- Hospice and terminally-ill patients have no limit on the amount they can obtain on a monthly basis.
- Prevents hospitals from denying patients organ transplant eligibility due to their medical cannabis use.
- Edibles (infused food products) will be available for adults in addition to minors, who previously had access.
- Patients are protected against public-housing and workplace discrimination and the state will no longer interfere in child-custody cases.
- Patients can designate two caregivers instead of just one,
- Out-of-state patients can obtain medical marijuana for up to six months after receiving approval from an in-state physician.
- Dispensaries can deliver medicine to homes, which help patients with limited mobility.
- Dispensaries are required to post prices on their websites and cannot change those prices more than once a month.
- The law phases out the state sales tax on medical cannabis by 2022.
- Creates a Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
- Dispensaries will be allowed to operate on-site consumption areas.
The big news for prospective dispensary owners is the expansion of the program from the current 12 licenses to as many as 108. Six dispensaries are currently operating while another six have been approved.
Competition for licenses is fierce. Generally, multi-state operators are best poised to obtain them. However, the bill does set aside micro licenses for women and minority-owned businesses. The new application period runs through August 15.
CMMNJ’S KEN WOLSKI: “We will continue to pursue home grow for its affordable access and the therapeutic act of gardening. It gives you twice the bang for your buck.”
Nearly 50,000 patients have signed up for the Garden State’s medical-marijuana program since it was originally signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine in 2010. His successor, Chris Christie, did not favor the new law. During his two terms, the Department of Health imposed education requirements on doctors who participated, requiring training courses in addiction pain management. Most of the six licensees were slow to get up and running during Christie’s tenure. This has changed since Gov. Murphy, a Democrat, was elected to replace the Republican governor in 2017.
Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey, is generally happy with the amendments to the program, but questions the creation of the regulatory agency, which he calls “another bureaucracy,” and bemoans the failure to allow patients and caregivers to grow their own cannabis.
“That’s a real disappointment,” he tells Freedom Leaf. “We will continue to pursue home grow for its affordable access and the therapeutic act of gardening. It gives you twice the bang for your buck.”