The New Jersey Senate recently gave the green light to legislation that would make medical cannabis available via telehealth. The bill (Senate Bill 619) is now under consideration by the Assembly Health Committee.

The legislation represents the latest expansion of New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program, which has grown significantly under Gov. Phil Murphy in terms of patients and providers enrolled. The state has also enacted a series of reforms that make it easier for patients to access medical cannabis.

To help patients who may be too ill to visit the doctor or otherwise housebound, Senate Bill 619 permits patients to be authorized for medical cannabis and to have written instructions for medical cannabis issued to the patient using telemedicine and telehealth. “A lot of people who use medicinal marijuana are pretty ill with cancer,” said sponsor Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “Forcing them to go out of the house for treatment — there’s no sense.” 

New Jersey Telemedicine Law

Telemedicine uses telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical health care outside traditional medical facilities. Examples include writing a prescription after communicating with a patient via email, remotely monitoring vital signs, and providing mental health counseling via video conferencing. In 2017, New Jersey joined more than 30 other states in authorizing health care providers to remotely provide health care services to patients through the use of telemedicine and telehealth.

The New Jersey Telemedicine Law (N.J.S.A. 45:1-60-64) defines “telemedicine” as the delivery of a health care service using electronic communications, information technology, or other electronic or technological means to bridge the gap between a health care provider who is located at a distant site and a patient who is located at an originating site, either with or without the assistance of an intervening health care provider. Meanwhile, “telehealth” means the use of information and communications technologies, including telephones, remote patient monitoring devices, or other electronic means, to support clinical health care, provider consultation, patient and professional health-related education, public health, health administration, and other services.

Under the law, treatment and consultation recommendations made through the use of telemedicine or telehealth are subject to the same practice standards as are applicable to in-person settings. Healthcare providers may issue a prescription through telemedicine or telehealth. However, they may not do so based exclusively on the responses to an online questionnaire unless they have already established a relationship with the patient. In addition, providers may not prescribe Schedule II controlled substances without first evaluating the patient in-person. Going forward, providers must evaluate the patient every three months for the duration of time that the patient is being prescribed the Schedule II controlled dangerous substance.

Prescribing Medical Cannabis Via Telehealth

Senate Bill 619 seeks to clarify that medical cannabis may be prescribed using telemedicine and telehealth. Specifically, for a period of 270 days following the effective date of the bill, a health care practitioner may authorize a patient who is a resident of a long-term care facility, has a developmental disability, is terminally ill, is receiving hospice care from a licensed hospice care provider, or is housebound as certified by the patient’s physician, for the medical use of cannabis using telemedicine and telehealth.

Thereafter, a health care practitioner may authorize any patient for the medical use of cannabis using telemedicine and telehealth, provided that the patient has had at least one previous in-office consultation with the health care practitioner prior to the patient’s authorization for the medical use of cannabis. The legislation also allows written instructions for medical cannabis to be provided to or on behalf of a patient using telemedicine and telehealth. 

If approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Murphy, the law would take effect immediately. The attorneys of the Scarinci Hollenbeck Cannabis Law Group will continue to track the progress of Senate Bill 619 and provide updates.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-806-3364.

This article is a part of a series pertaining to cannabis legalization in New Jersey and the United States at large. Prior articles in this series are below:

Disclaimer: Possession, use, distribution, and/or sale of cannabis is a Federal crime and is subject to related Federal policy. Legal advice provided by Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC is designed to counsel clients regarding the validity, scope, meaning, and application of existing and/or proposed cannabis law. Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC will not provide assistance in circumventing Federal or state cannabis law or policy, and advice provided by our office should not be construed as such.