The State of Medical Marijuana in New Jersey
2020 Grade: B
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
New Jersey lawmakers spent much of the 2019 legislative session negotiating details of legislation to create a new adult-use commercial cannabis marketplace, though political disputes sidelined those efforts until 2020. However Governor Murphy was successful in ushering in sweeping reforms to the state’s medical program under the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act. The new law increases the monthly limit to 3 oz over an 18-month period, and exempts terminally ill patients from the monthly limit. It also increases from 90 days to one year the amount of cannabis that patients can secure in an effort to reduce the number of visits required by patients to obtain a sufficient supply of medicine and decrease costs to patients.
Additional features of the new law include permission of adult patients to consume edibles (previously only available to minors), a 3-year phase out of government taxes imposed on medical cannabis, and expansion of health practitioner classifications authorized to recommend cannabis beyond physicians to include physician assistants and advanced practice nurses. The measure includes other cost-saving and flexibility provisions, such as allowing patients to have up to two caregivers, authorizing delivery, and increasing the number of licensed dispensaries from six to twelve. Additional provisions cover employment protections for registered patients, storefronts to list product pricing information online consistent with in-store pricing, and reciprocity.
In addition, NJ organized expanded access features for patients under COVID, permitting pre-ordering, curbside pickup, delivery, and telehealth for physician evaluations. For 2021 ASA encourages NJ to expand civil discrimination protections in the areas of housing, parental rights and organ transplants.
On January 18, 2010, Governor Jon Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Marijuana Act, SB 119, into law on his last day in office. Governor Christie subsequently made several attempts to delay the program. After a series of legislative and bureaucratic battles, the New Jersey Department of Health adopted rules for the program in 2011. These rules included changes to the licensing process for cultivators and distributors, prohibited home delivery, and required a recommending physician to certify that a patient’s qualifying condition is “resistant to conventional medical therapy” and must be recertified every 90 days. Patients must obtain medicine from one of six Alternative Treatment Centers. The certifying physician must indicate the quantity a registered patient can obtain, not to exceed two ounces in a 30-day period.
The first patient registrations were accepted in August 2012, and the first Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) opened in December 2012. In August 2013, SB 2842 lifted the limits on the number of cannabis cultivars that may be cultivated and allowed for the manufacture and distribution of edible cannabis solely to minors. In 2016 the legislature passed AB 457 adding PTSD as a qualifying condition, and the Department of Health finally appointed a panel of physicians and health professionals with the authority to add more conditions.
In 2018, New Jersey added five new categories of qualifying conditions, including chronic pain and opioid use disorder, and reduced patient and caregiver fees from $200 to $100. The state also added an additional $20 dollar discount for seniors and veterans. New 2018 regulations also removed the cap of one caregiver per patient and allowed for Alternative Treatment Centers to open up satellite locations. Governor Murphy also announced in 2018 the state’s plan to license up to 108 new medical cannabis businesses.
New 2018 regulations also expanded the forms of available cannabis to include oil based formulations like vape cartridges, streamlined the process to add new qualifying conditions, and removed the requirement of a psychiatric evaluation for minor patients. These regulations also removed the requirement that physicians had to list their information online to participate in the program. Also in 2018, a state workers compensation judge ordered a town to cover the cost of a town employee’s medical cannabis, setting a precedent for potential future coverage in other workers’ compensation cases.
Surveyed patients report that medical cannabis prices are still very high and there is a lack of qualifying conditions for becoming a medical cannabis patient. Surveyed patients would like to see telehealth, online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery services maintained in the future.