Assembly Democratic Bill Greatly Expanding Access to Medical Marijuana by Adding Eligible Conditions and Protections for Practitioners and Patients Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – To expand access to medical cannabis for all eligible patients in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats have sponsored legislation amending the requirements for the regulation of the state's medical cannabis program. The bill was advanced through the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday.

The bill (A-10) would revise the regulatory structure for New Jersey's medical cannabis program, shifting the primary administration from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which is to be formed under the adult-use cannabis bill currently advancing through the Legislature, as well as increase access to and expand licensure for medical cannabis.

"It is about time we remove the unnecessary obstacles in the way of patients getting the treatment that works best for them," said Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). "By reversing the onerous restrictions previously in place in our state's medical cannabis program, we are doing a service to patients and doctors all across New Jersey."

"The previous model of New Jersey's medical cannabis program forced patients to jump through countless unnecessary hoops in order to receive the treatment they need," said Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). "Finally, this will no longer be the case."

“We are finally removing the burdensome restrictions in place for our state’s medical cannabis patients,” said Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “By doing this, we are ensuring that patients in New Jersey are able to receive the best care possible.”

Highlights of the bill include:

•   changing the term "debilitating medical condition," currently used to be eligible for medical cannabis to "qualifying medical condition," greatly expanding access for individuals in need of medical cannabis;
•   codifying conditions added by the Medical Marijuana Review Panel in January 2018, which would include chronic pain of musculoskeletal or nervous origin, anxiety, migraine, Tourette's Syndrome and menstrual pain;
•   amending requirements for authorizing medical cannabis for patients. This legislation repeals the current requirements for physicians to "certify" patients for the medical use of cannabis and allows physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize patients to use medical cannabis;
•   the establishment of three new basic permit types: Cultivator, Manufacturer and Dispensary, as well as a special integrated curriculum permit and clinical registrant permit, with twenty-five percent of permits dedicated to minorities, women and disabled veterans;
•   amending the requirement for a psychiatrist to approve a minor for medical cannabis to instead require approval from a board certified pediatric specialist, or physician assistant or advanced nurse practitioner with equivalent certification;
•   increasing eligible forms of medical cannabis to include transdermal forms, sublingual forms and tincture forms, as well as removing restrictions under current law for edibles for minors; additionally, the bill also explicitly includes "oils" in the list of edible forms;
•   the phasing out of the sales tax structure for medical cannabis, beginning at 5% for FY20 and FY21, 3% in FY22, 1% in FY23, and no tax commencing in FY24;
•   overhauling regulations on caregivers in order to allow them to provide the best care possible to medical cannabis patients; and
•   adding protections for patients, caregivers, physicians and alternative care centers to treat medical cannabis as any ordinary prescription medication.

"For years, our residents have wanted medical cannabis to be a real option for their ailments," said Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Finally, patients will be able to be granted the care they need and deserve."

"What we are doing is making medical cannabis an actual, viable option for patients in need of medical care," said Joann Downey (D-Monmouth). "By treating cannabis as the medicine that the vast majority of health care professionals consider it to be, we are doing a service to practitioners and patients across New Jersey."

"Patients across our state deserve to be able to access their medicine without fear of endangering their professional status," said Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "By extending protections to patients and practitioners, we are creating a stronger, safer New Jersey.”

"Our hope is that this bill will remove cumbersome restrictions currently in place for New Jersey's alternative care practitioners and patients," said Carol Murphy (D-Burlington). "By allowing professionals to properly care for their patients, our residents can get the health care they need.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.