5 Ways In Which the New Law Expands New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program

On July 2, 2019, New Jersey’s Governor, Phil Murphy, signed into law the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (“Act”) (previously known as the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act) which greatly expands and reforms New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana program. Several of the legislative updates are based on the recommendations made by the New Jersey Department of Health March 2018 Report (drafted pursuant to Executive Order No. 6). Below we highlight some of the significant changes.

  1. New Commission Created. The Act creates a Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) in, but not of, the Department of the Treasury, to assume all powers, duties, and responsibilities with regard to the regulation and oversight of activities authorized pursuant to the Act. The Commission will take over from the Department of Health and will focus on further development, expansion, regulation, and enforcement of activities associated with the medical use of cannabis pursuant to the Act.
  2. Employee Protection. The Act now makes it unlawful to take any “adverse employment action” against an employee who is a registered qualifying patient based solely on the employee’s status as a registrant with the Commission. The Act defines “adverse employment action” as “refusing to hire or employ an individual, barring or discharging an individual from employment, requiring an individual to retire from employment, or discriminating against an individual in compensation or in any terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.” If an employer has a drug testing policy and an employee or job applicant tests positive for cannabis, the employer has to offer the employee or job applicant an opportunity to present a legitimate medical explanation for the positive test result. Furthermore, no employer will be penalized or denied any benefit under State law solely on the basis of employing a person who is registered with the commission. However, the law does not restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit, or take adverse employment action for the possession or use of intoxicating substances during work hours or on the premises of the workplace outside of work hours.
  3. Annual Recommendations Permitted. The Act permits a doctor to recommend medical cannabis annually instead of four times a year.
  4. Tax on Medical Cannabis Phased Out. The Act phases out the sales tax on medical cannabis over three years. The tax goes down to 4 percent in July 2020, 2 percent in July 2021, and is eliminated entirely in July 2022.
  5. Changes Benefiting Patients.
    • Renames “debilitating medical condition” to “qualifying medical condition” and expands the definition to mean seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; post-traumatic stress disorder; glaucoma; positive status for human immunodeficiency virus; acquired immune deficiency syndrome; cancer; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; multiple sclerosis; muscular dystrophy; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease; terminal illness, if the patient has a prognosis of less than 12 months of life; anxiety; migraine; Tourette’s syndrome; dysmenorrhea; chronic pain; opioid use disorder; or any other medical condition or its treatment that is approved by the commission
    • Permits out-of-state patients to purchase medical cannabis
    • Allows physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to also authorize medical cannabis treatments, provided they meet certain specified requirements (previoulsy, only physicians could authorize the use of medical cannabis)
    • Each qualifying patient may concurrently have up to two designated caregivers
    • Establishes regulations providing for the home delivery of medical cannabis.

If providers, cultivators, dispensaries, or manufacturers of medical cannabis have questions about the new Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act or have other health law related questions, please contact our office.