New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, has been an outspoken advocate for the legalization of marijuana, and the expansion of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Murphy has proven in the short time since he took office in January of 2018 that these words were more than just campaign “tough talk.” Murphy set down a list of legal changes in February 2018 which greatly expand the rights of New Jersey’s citizens as it pertains to their ongoing access to medical marijuana.
New Jersey has had medical marijuana legalized throughout the state since 2010, shortly before Murphy’s predecessor, recent presidential candidate Chris Christie took office. Under Christie’s administration, the program was choked and stifled, reaching only 18,000 patients annually. While this number may seem like a lot, when you look at similarly sized states such as Michigan (which has a program reaching 220,000 patients) you begin to see how New Jersey’s program has failed its residents for the better part of a decade.
Murphy’s legal changes are massive in scope and came following a 60-day audit of the state’s medical marijuana program. This in depth analysis was brought into existence by one of the governor’s first executive orders upon taking office at the beginning of this year. The audit laid out a number of areas in which the state’s program could be improved upon, and the governor has acted accordingly, doling out a number of mandates which are to be implemented immediately.
Upon ordering the audit in January, the governor said, “We cannot turn a deaf ear to our veterans, the families of children facing terminal illness, or to any of the other countless New Jerseyans who only wish to be treated like people, and not like criminals.”
So how do these new laws affect your ability to access medical marijuana? Are your specific conditions now covered? What does this mean for the state’s economy? How does this affect Murphy’s additional desire to legalize recreational marijuana use throughout the garden state?
Under Governor Christie, the New Jersey medical marijuana program was available only to individuals suffering from the following afflictions/experiences:
- Severe vomiting from AIDS or cancer treatment
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chron’s disease
- Terminal illnesses
Murphy’s reforms will open those gates wider, granting medical marijuana rights to individuals suffering from a number of additional conditions.
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Chronic pain of a visceral origin
- Tourette’s Syndrome
Dosages Have Been Expanded
In addition, the administration is proposing regulatory changes that will increase the monthly dosage amount by 50%. While current medical marijuana laws allow for the distribution of two ounces of marijuana per month, Murphy is seeking an increase to four ounces. Hospice patients, who are receiving end of life care, have an unlimited dosage level under these new regulations.
Now, not only will more New Jersey patients have access to medical marijuana, but they will also be able to receive a fair monthly dosage, helping them to treat their conditions more effectively.
Medical Marijuana is Less Expensive and More Profitable
While dosage amounts were increased by 50%, Murphy has also cut the program’s registration fees by 50%. Whereas once, New Jersey patients were paying $200 every two years for access to the medical marijuana program, they will now pay only $100 every two years. This makes it more affordable for everyone, ensuring that pricing will not dissuade the majority of users from seeking care.
Also, the new law allows for a massive price decrease for veterans and senior citizens, aged 65 and older. These individuals will pay only $20.
Under Chris Christie, the state government received $1.6 million in revenue related to medical marijuana in 2017. In Murphy’s proposed 2019 fiscal year budget, he estimated receiving in excess of $20 million in medical marijuana revenue, due to its increased availability. In a state that has suffered some extreme financial woes and with one of the highest property tax rates in the nation, this increased revenue could aid in financial relief for all New Jersey home owners.
More Treatment Centers and More Doctors
Murphy said in a press conference that New Jersey’s patients had been “failed by a system that has been prevented from delivering the compassionate care it promised nearly a decade ago.”
Under the Christie administration, doctors could only prescribe medical marijuana to patients if they were included in an online registry. As such, only 536 of the state’s more than 28,000 doctors were able to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. This infinitesimal amount saw the industry choked further. Many doctors balked at the idea that their names would be tied to medical marijuana use out of fear, given that marijuana is still an illegal substance.
Murphy’s reform of the program does away with this requirement, allowing patients to speak to their personal doctors regarding medical marijuana. Doctors must still recommend patients for the program, but the registry has been removed.
Additionally, the number of alternative treatment centers in the state is expected to rise, making medical marijuana far more accessible to the average New Jersey patient.
As of right now, New Jersey has only five medical marijuana dispensaries. They grow and sell their own product and are located in Montclair, Woodbridge, Cranbury, Egg Harbor, and Bellmawr. A sixth dispensary in Secaucus has not yet opened. These businesses were prevented from expanding under Christie’s administration, but will now be able to spread their wings. Each of these existing dispensaries may now apply to open satellite retail locations, as well as an additional cultivation site.
More companies will also be given licenses to grow, cultivate, and sell medical marijuana, expanding the existing market to account for what will assuredly be increased demand.
Its Own Division
The new medical marijuana program will also be elevated to its own division within the state’s health department. This will shine a brighter light upon the program, hastening decisions and pushing the use of medical marijuana forward at an increased rate.
A Gateway to Legalization?
Christie opposed the program and its expansion, calling it a gateway to outright legalization on more than one occasion. Whether it is or is not is up for debate, but Murphy seems to be hoping that the wind will blow in that direction. While discussing his previously mentioned 2019 budget, the governor stated that recreational marijuana legalization could lead to an additional $60 million in state revenue.
15’s revamped medical marijuana laws make this product available to more patients, with increased dosages, lower costs, and additional locations in which to purchase. This radically shifted government ideology is sure to push the medical marijuana industry within the garden state onward and upward in the years to come. Whether this move leads to recreational legalization remains to be seen, as Murphy will have to face some tough opposition from state lawmakers before that can become a reality.
If you have questions about your right to medical marijuana, or you feel as though those rights have been impeded illegally, the law offices of Marc A. Futterweit stands at the ready to assist you. For more information on our services, or to schedule a consultation with an attorney, visit us online or call us at 973-442-0200.