Governor of New Jersey Signs Bill to Expand State Medical Cannabis Program

Governor Phil Murphy has signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act.
Governor of New Jersey Signs Bill to Expand State Medical Cannabis Program

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed a bill on Tuesday that expands the state’s medical cannabis program. Under the measure, the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, the state will add more licenses for providers in the medicinal cannabis program, patients will be allowed to legally possess more medicine, and registered medical marijuana patients from other states will be permitted to possess cannabis.

Law Named for Young Patient

The law is named for Jake Honig, a young boy from Howell, New Jersey who died last year of brain cancer. Jake’s parents used cannabis oil to ease his pain near the end of his five-year battle with the disease. But when the monthly supply allowed by the state ran out, Jake had to be given morphine and powerful opioids instead. After the boy passed away, his parents began advocating for improvements in New Jersey’s medical cannabis program, lobbying Murphy and legislators for change.

Under Jake’s Law, as the bill is also known, terminally ill patients will have expanded access to medical marijuana and the limit on the amount of cannabis that can be possessed by all patients will be increased from two ounces to three ounces. Access to the program will also be made easier for patients by allowing physician assistants and some nurse practitioners to write recommendations for medical cannabis. Currently, only physicians are permitted to issue such recommendations.

The law also adds 24 new licenses for medical marijuana providers in the state, to be distributed on a regional basis. Three new vertically integrated licenses will be added and for the first time in New Jersey, separate licenses for cannabis retailers and growers will also be issued. Fifteen dispensaries licenses will be available and five marijuana cultivators will also be licensed. Until now, only twelve vertically integrated medical cannabis providers have served the state.

Visiting Patients Protected, Sort of

Another provision of the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act would allow registered medical marijuana patients from other states to possess cannabis while in New Jersey. But the law does not allow visiting patients to purchase cannabis at dispensaries licensed by the state, which some cannabis activists including Carly Wolf, a state policies coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, say is a flaw in the legislation. It’s illegal to purchase cannabis from an unlicensed source in New Jersey and under federal law, patients who bring cannabis into the state from elsewhere are technically drug trafficking.

“It would be kind of a catch-22 for patients,” said Wolf. “We have a lot of people coming to the state who are stranded, forced to choose between breaking the law or their own health and well-being.”

“The ideal situation would be allowing out-of-state patients to enter the state legal dispensary, show their ID and be served as if they were an in-state patient,” Wolf added.

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