NJ Legislature Advancing Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program

May 10, 2018
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The NJ Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee Recently Advanced Legislation that Aims to Expand Medical Marijuana Program in the State

The New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee recently advanced legislation that aims to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. A-3740-3437 (the “Bill”), would expand access to medical marijuana for patients as well as clear the way for additional alternative treatment centers (ATCs).

NJ Legislature Pushes Forward Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program in NJ

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com

“However well intentioned, the current program has failed to meet the needs of the residents it sought out to help,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Too many bureaucratic hurdles have rendered the program ineffective and incapable of meeting the demand for this treatment. This bill would make several revisions to the current law so patients who can benefit from medical marijuana can get it more efficiently and without having to jump through multiple hoops to get it.”

Proposed Changes for Patients in NJ Medical Cannabis Program

As discussed in a separate post [USE HYPERLINK], the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) recently released a report that recommends a significant expansion of the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP). Gov. Phil Murphy commissioned the report shortly after taking office in January, calling for a comprehensive review of New Jersey’s medical cannabis program.

The Bill proposes several legislative changes recommended in the DOH report. Under the bill, doctors would not be required to enroll in a physician registry as a condition of prescribing the medical use of marijuana. The legislation would also remove the current requirement that physicians certify a patient for medical marijuana.

The Bill would also increase the maximum amount of medical marijuana that may be dispensed to a patient for a 30-day period from two ounces to four ounces. In addition, it authorizes edible marijuana to be distributed to patients of all ages and specifies that medical marijuana may be distributed in transdermal, sublingual, and tincture forms.

The Bill would also eliminate the need for a list of qualifying conditions. Instead, a physician would be able to authorize a patient for any diagnosed medical condition, including the symptoms of the condition and any symptoms resulting from treatment, that the physician determines may be treated using medical marijuana. 

The Bill also lowers the fee for patients to enroll, which is currently $200. There would be no application or renewal fee for qualifying patients or in the case of an immediate family member of a qualifying patient who serves as primary caregiver to the patient. In all other cases, the maximum fee would be $10 for an individual who is indigent and $50 for all other cardholders.

In addition, an immediate family member serving as a patient’s primary care giver would not be required to undergo a criminal history record background check. The Bill also provides that a person may serve as primary caregiver for up to two patients at one time rather than just one, and provides that medical marijuana may be dispensed to a patient by any medical marijuana dispensary in the State. Currently, patients must be registered with and may only purchase medical marijuana from a single ATC.

Proposed Changes for NJ Alternative Treatment Centers

The Bill also allows for expansion of existing ATCs and establishment of new ATCs. To start, the legislation distinguishes between two different types of ATC: medical marijuana cultivator-processors and medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical marijuana cultivator-processors would be authorized to cultivate and process marijuana and marijuana-infused and marijuana-derived products. Meanwhile, New Jersey medical marijuana dispensaries would be authorized to dispense medical marijuana and related products to qualifying patients. An ATC holding a permit as of the effective date of the bill would be deemed to hold both a cultivator-processor permit and a dispensary permit. 

The Bill also requires DOH to issue a request for applications for six additional medical marijuana cultivator-processors and 34 additional medical marijuana dispensary permits within 90 days after its effective date. These new facilities, along with the six current ATCs in the state, would result in a total of 12 medical marijuana cultivator-processors and 40 total medical marijuana dispensaries. An initial permit would be valid for three years and would be renewable on a biennial basis.  

The Bill would also add specific requirements for DOH to review and score initial permit applications for new medical marijuana cultivator-processors and medical marijuana dispensaries based on a 100-point scale. It would include evaluations of the applicant’s operational plan, environmental impact plan, safety and security plan, business experience, proposed location, record of social responsibility, philanthropy, involvement in research concerning the medical efficacy and adverse effects of medical marijuana, workforce development and job creation plan, and business and financial plan. In evaluating an application, DOH must limit its review to the controlling owners, officers, directors, and employees, and not consider responses pertaining to consultants, independent contractors, or prospective or part-time employees.

Under the Bill, DOH employees would be prohibited from holding any financial interest in an ATC or receiving anything of value from an ATC in connection with reviewing, processing, or making recommendations with respect to an ATC permit application. In addition, a physician or an immediate family member of a physician who authorizes patients for medical marijuana may not hold any profit or ownership interest in an ATC. However, the Bill also specifies that the prohibition would not prevent a physician from serving on the medical advisory board of an ATC, provided the physician receives no special compensation or remuneration from the ATC, including payments based on patient volumes or the number of certifications issued by the physician.

What’s Next?

The Assembly Appropriations Committee is reviewing the Bill, and companion legislation is being considered by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

While the Bill’s likelihood of passage is still unclear, changes are coming to New Jersey’s cannabis laws, with medical marijuana likely leading the way. Please contact the Cannabis Law practice group at Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC with questions about current and potential medical and adult-use cannabis laws and legislation.

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.