New Jersey Legislature Also Advances Medical Cannabis Bills

December 11, 2018
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New Jersey Legislature is Advancing Legislation to Significantly Expand the State’s Medical Marijuana Program

While recreational cannabis generated most of the headlines, the New Jersey Legislature is also advancing legislation to significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program. On November 26, three legislative committees approved a Senate substitute bill combining key provisions of Senate Bill 10 and Senate Bill 2426.

New Jersey Legislature Also Advances Medical Marijuana Bills

Photo courtesy of Babe Botanics (Unsplash.com)

The new measure is named the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act” after Jake Honig of Howell. The 7-year-old boy, who died from brain cancer early this year, obtained significant relief from cannabis oil. However, due to restrictions on the amount his parents could obtain under the existing Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, they were forced to use it sparingly.

Key Changes to New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program

The Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 10 and Senate Bill No. 2426 significantly amends the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Below are several key changes:

  • Oversight: Assuming recreational marijuana is legalized, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) would also be vested with oversight authority over the medical cannabis program.  All authority over the medical cannabis program would transfer from the Department of Health to the CRC once the members of the CRC are appointed and the CRC is organized.
  • Authorizing patients for medical cannabis: The bill amends the term “debilitating medical condition” to “qualifying medical condition.” It also provides that medical cannabis may be used as a treatment of first resort for any of the following conditions: seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; post-traumatic stress disorder; glaucoma; positive status for human immunodeficiency virus; acquired immune deficiency syndrome; cancer; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; multiple sclerosis; muscular dystrophy; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease; terminal illness, if the patient has a prognosis of less than 12 months of life; anxiety; migraine; Tourette’s syndrome; dysmenorrhea; chronic pain; or any other medical condition or its treatment that is approved by the CRC.
  • Prescribing medical cannabis: The bill provides that physician assistants and advanced practice nurses may authorize patients for medical cannabis. In addition, health care practitioners will not be required to register with the CRC, or be publicly listed in any CRC registry, as a condition of authorizing patients for medical cannabis.
  • Dispensing Requirements: Among other changes, the bill provides that, commencing January 1, 2019, the maximum amount of cannabis that may be dispensed will increase to two and one-half ounces, and commencing July 1, 2019, the maximum amount will increase to three ounces.  The quantity restrictions will not apply to a patient receiving hospice care or who is terminally ill; other patients may petition the CRC for an exemption from the monthly quantity limits, which may be granted if appropriate to the patient’s treatment needs. The substitute bill will also allow practitioners to authorize up to a one-year supply at one time.
  • Permit requirements for alternative treatment centers (ATCs): The bill establishes three distinct permit types in connection with the production and dispensing of medical cannabis: medical cannabis cultivators, medical cannabis manufacturers, and medical cannabis dispensaries. For a period of 18 months after the effective date of the substitute bill, an entity will be permitted to hold both a cultivator and a manufacturer permit, but not a dispensary permit, and an entity that holds a dispensary permit will not be permitted to hold either a cultivator or manufacturer permit.  After 18 months, an entity will be authorized to concurrently hold one of each permit type, for a total of up to three permits.  However, the substitute bill provides that the CRC is to issue six new plenary ATC permits that are not subject to these restrictions, and the restrictions will also not apply to existing ATCs. The CRC will enact regulations specifying the number of new permits of each type that it will authorize in the first year following the effective date of the substitute bill, and thereafter periodically evaluate whether the current number of permits is sufficient to meet the needs of qualifying patients. The legislation outlines the factorsto be considered when reviewing new permit applications, which includes specific information concerning the applicant’s operational experience, workforce development plan, community impact analysis, security capabilities, storage systems, emergency management plan, and proposed location, along with any other criteria the CRC deems appropriate.
  • New clinical registrant permit: The bill establishes a new permit type, clinical registrant, which will authorize the permit holder to engage in all conduct related to the cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products as is authorized for other ATC permit holders. The clinical registrant will be required to enter into a contractual relationship with an academic medical center, which is defined as “a facility located in New Jersey that has faculty practices in addiction medicine and pain management, has a graduate medical training program that includes primary care and specialized medicine, is the principal teaching affiliate of a New Jersey medical school, and has the ability to conduct research related to cannabis.” Academic medical centers will engage in clinical research related to medical cannabis in order to advise the affiliated clinical registrant concerning patient health and safety, medical applications, and the dispensing and management of controlled dangerous substances. Clinical registrant applicants will be required to demonstrate at least $15 million in capital. Clinical registrants will be authorized to serve all qualifying patients, as well as qualifying patients who agree to participate in clinical research. Clinical registrants may operate from more than one location and may be approved for a satellite dispensing location and may relocate to another location in the same region unless the CRC determines relocation would be contrary to the purposes of the medical cannabis laws.
  • Recreational Marijuana: Once the legislation for adult-use recreational marijuana is enacted, each ATC that was issued a permit prior to the effective date of the bill and the six new plenary ATC permits to be issued by the CRC under the bill will all be deemed to hold a Class 1 Cannabis Grower license, a Class 2 Cannabis Processor license, a Class 3 Cannabis Wholesaler license, and a Class 4 Cannabis Retailer license, plus an additional Class 4 Cannabis Retailer license for each satellite dispensary. The ATC will be authorized to engage in all activities authorized by the adult use cannabis licenses without being required to establish or maintain any physical barriers or separations between the medical use and adult use cannabis operations, provided that, as a condition of selling to the adult use market, the ATC certifies to the CRC that it has sufficient quantities of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products available to meet the needs of medical patients.

What’s Next for the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act?

The Senate Health Committee passed the bill by a 7-1 vote. It was also approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by an 11-1 vote, and the Assembly Appropriations Committee by a 10-0 vote with one abstention. It must now be approved by the full Senate and Assembly. A vote is possible on December 17, which is the last day the full Legislature will meet this year.

If you have any questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, 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.