LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Murphy signs legislation vastly expanding medical marijuana use in NJ

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Mike and Janet Honig of Howell lost their son 7-year-old Jake to brain cancer last year. His parents became advocates for medical marijuana after morphine and OxyContin wouldn’t ease Jake’s pain.

“When Jake was on morphine, he would become high, he would have side effects so bad where he would scratch his chest that he would actually bleed, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t look at food, he couldn’t look at water without vomiting. He was truly a different person while on those medications. It was then when we made a decision to increase his usage of medical cannabis, and to our delight every time we would dose him his medical marijuana, 20 minutes later his pain would subside,” said Mike.

To the Honigs, including Jake’s sister Gianna, families should have access to medical cannabis whenever they need it.

“Your child goes through everything that’s asked — surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy — and then when it comes to that time that you can no longer save their life, all you can do is keep them comfortable, you should be allowed to do that as a parent,” Mike Honig said.

The bill Murphy signed overhauls the medical marijuana program. Among other things it:

  • Raises the monthly limit from 2 ounces to 3 ounces, unlimited for terminal patients
  • Extends the authorization period from 90 days to 1 year
  • Allows physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to prescribe it
  • Allows home delivery
  • Creates the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, and more

“We are allowing edible forms of medical marijuana which are easier for many patients to ingest to be available for adult patients and not just minors. And over the next three years we will be completely phasing out the sales tax on medical marijuana,” Murphy added.

Gov. Jon Corzine signed the first medical marijuana bill on his last day in office. Gov. Chris Christie then made it very strict during his two terms. Murphy liberalized it as soon as he took office and has now put those expansions and more into law.

“Thank you to all the patient advocates, doctors, nurses, family members and the public for supporting this issue. Over the past several years a lot of us have come to a new understanding of how medical marijuana can be used to help patients. With this knowledge, both minds and laws have been changed. And most importantly, sick people have been helped, pain has been eased,” Murphy said.

Enrollment has tripled since Christie left office.

“We removed needless barriers that don’t exist for other essential medications, like the blanket requirement that children have to see a child psychiatrist before they get the therapy. That is no more,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal.

Advocates were thrilled, but say there’s a long way to go.

“There are 2,200 pharmacies in the state of New Jersey and six alternative treatment centers. I won’t be happy until there’s 2,000 access points for marijuana in New Jersey,” said Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey Ken Wolski.

More than a half dozen legislators were on hand for the bill signing.

“This bill is without question the most progressive, innovative medical marijuana bill in the United States,” Assemblyman Joe Danielsen.

So medical marijuana is taken care of. Recreational marijuana is a whole other matter. At the moment it looks like it will be a ballot issue in 2020.