Gov. Phil Murphy, signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act at a tavern in Freehold together with the parents and sister of the bill’s namesake.
The law is named after a 7-year-old who died early last year after battling brain cancer. His parents, Mike and Janet Honig, have fought for easier access to cannabis to ease pain during illnesses.
Governor Phil Murphy has already enacted the expansion of patient’s access to medical marijuana under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act
The statement accompanying the bill explains its purpose as follows:
“In honor of Jake, who passed away on January 21, 2018, this bill seeks to remove certain restrictions on access to medical cannabis in order to reduce the suffering experienced by, and improve the quality of life of, New Jersey patients, like Jake, seeking treatment for a debilitating medical condition.”
It increases the limit that can be dispensed from 2 ounces to 3 ounces for 18 months after the law goes into effect, with a commission the measure establishes setting the limit afterward.
It boosts a patient’s supply from 90 days to one year and allows for home delivery to patients. The law lowers the threshold from debilitating illnesses to “qualifying” illnesses to make it easier for health care officials to prescribe the drug. The illnesses include seizure disorder, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, glaucoma, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as chronic pain and opioid-use disorder. Other illnesses could be added as well
It permits physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize medical cannabis. Previously, only doctors could prescribe it.
The law also sets up three new categories of licenses, including cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries. Currently there is only a single of permit allowing so-called alternative treatment centers that cover all three categories.
The law calls for expanding the number of cultivators to 28. Currently the state is in the process of increasing the number of alternative treatment centers from six to 12.
Before Murphy signed the legislation, Mike Honig told an emotional story about Jake enjoying waffle fries and a milkshake while on medical cannabis. According to Mike Honig, morphine and opioids doctors had described had terrible side effects for Jake, including taking away his appetite and making him high. Medical cannabis helped his son feel like himself.
“Medical cannabis allowed Jake’s personality to shine through cancer,” Mike Honig said.
Murphy and the Democrat-led Legislature turned their attention to expanding medical marijuana after lawmakers failed in March to pass legalized recreational cannabis.
New Jersey’s program began roughly a decade ago under Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. Republican Gov. Chris Christie, an ardent marijuana critic, implemented the program slowly over his two terms.
The program currently has over 49,000 patients, up from about 15,000 when Christie left office in early 2018.
Thirty-four states have medical cannabis programs, along with the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.