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Watching and Waiting for the Expansion of the Medicinal Marijuana Program in New Jersey

It comes as no surprise that New Jersey is moving forward in expanding the medicinal marijuana program.  Since Gov. Murphy took office less than a year and-a-half ago, the number of patients enrolled in the program has almost tripled, and the qualifying conditions have significantly expanded, with the latest condition — opioid use disorder –being added in January 2019.

The latest development took place on May 30, 2019, when the New Jersey Senate voted favorably to further expand the medicinal cannabis program in the state (the New Jersey Assembly passed the bill on May 23, 2019).  The revisions to A10 include a name change from “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” to the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act”; establish a new Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) to oversee the program; modify the requirements to authorize a patient for medical cannabis; amend the permit and operational requirement for alternative treatment centers (“ATCs”); create a new clinical registrant permit; allow for delivery of medical cannabis; and expand protections for registered patients and their caregivers.

Another term getting a new name is the “debilitating medical condition,” which will now be called “qualifying medical condition.”  Thus, in order for a practitioner to authorize medicinal cannabis, the patient must be diagnosed with one of the “qualifying medical conditions.”  Additionally, patients no longer need to wait to use medicinal cannabis as a last resort, after conventional medicine fails, as the current law requires. The revised bill allows practitioners to authorize medicinal cannabis as the first treatment option.

The revised bill expands the list of professionals who can authorize medicinal cannabis to include not only physicians, but also physician assistants and advance practice nurses.  It eliminates the requirement for a bona fide provider-patient relationship, and the requirement for practitioners to register with the state.  If the revised bill passes, the 2-ounce, 30-day maximum supply of medical cannabis will increase to 3 ounces during the first 18 months; thereafter, the authority to modify the maximum supply will rest with the newly formed CRC.  It will also allow a practitioner to authorize up to a one-year supply, while the current maximum is 90 days.

To ease access for patients, another revision is to allow for delivery, an option not currently available.  The bill also provides that patients may have up to two caregivers, as opposed to one, and if the caregiver is an immediate family member, they need not undergo a background check.  To assist patients who are in-patients at a facility, the bill further establishes a category of “institutional caregiver.”  An institutional caregiver would be an employee of a healthcare institution such as a hospital, nursing home, long-term care facility, hospice, group home, rehabilitation center, etc., who would be registered with the state, and would be able to assist patients with obtaining medicinal cannabis.

These are just a few of the changes proposed by the bill.  If you would like to learn more about the medicinal marijuana program and its progress in New Jersey, please follow this blog, and visit the firm’s Legally Grown blog maintained by our Cannabis Law Group.

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