At long last untethered to legislation to legalize cannabis, S10, a bill that would drastically improve NJ’s medical marijuana program, is headed for a full Senate vote soon.
Senate President Steve Sweeney made the announcement today at an afternoon state house press conference.
Thanks to NJ’s former Governor Chris Christie, NJ’s medical marijuana program baldy lags, and while there’ve been marginal improvements over the years, it’s a long journey out of the basement.
S10 would vault NJ from “awful” to “pretty good,” a decent consolation prize for some advocates disappointed that recreational marijuana legalization is officially on the back burner until 2020.
So what does S10 actaully do?
Ends sales tax.
This legislation ramps down the 6.25% sales tax on medical marijuana purchases. The ramp down is actually over several years and Senate President Sweeney hinted he’d like to see sales tax on cannabis end sooner than that.
More compassion! Fewer hurdles!
Most critically, S10 eliminates the requirement that patients re-certify their qualifying condition every 30-, 60-, or 90 days just to stay in compliance with NJ’s regs.
Forcing terminally sick and dying people to prove they’re sick 12 times a year was the most pernicious, onerous regulation on the books, thank you Chris Christie.
When S10 passes, patients would re-certify annually instead of, in my case, every 60 days.
“That’s a big deal,” Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) told InsiderNJ. He’s S10’s prime sponsor.
Doctors decide. NOT bureaucrats.
Currently, the department of health decides who qualifies for medical marijuana, another reflection of NJ’s tendency to empower the government at the expense of its own citizenry.
If s10 passes, doctors and patients decide. Not bureaucrats and politicians.
“We’re letting doctors do what they want to do like we do with other drugs,” O’Scanlon told InsiderNJ.
Saves time! Saves Money!
This bill’s passage saves 45,000 people both time and (in my case) $500 a year in co-pays. When S10 passes, re-certification can happen concurrently with routine lab work or during my regular visits with my nurse practitioner.
Five hundred dollars is a car payment. You know what $500 won’t get you? An ounce of cannabis at the Egg Harbor NJ dispensary where, last I checked, ounces were selling for $520, an astonishing price point, among the highest in America.
NO HOME GROW!
There remains very little appetite among lawmakers and regulators for patients to grow their own marijuana in New Jersey. Even though doing so would mostly fix what ails NJ’s program. This leaves NJ at odds with other medical marijuana states where patients have the liberty to grow their own.
(Note to Attorney General Grewal: Can you please issue guidance or a directive to stop prosecuting medical marijuana who can’t afford the cartel!?)
The strident opposition to home cultivation in Trenton created the cartel model we’re living in. Dispensaries in NJ are charging sick people up to $520 for an ounce of cannabis.
And for all it’s many benefits, S10, won’t change that.
“I am overjoyed at the relief this change will bring juvenile aged- and terminal patients,” long-time advocate Aubrey Navarro-Conway told InsiderNJ. “I am also proud to see the social justice portion move forward at the same rate as medical expansion. I applaud the effort of (Senator Sweeney and the bill’s sponsors) to make Jake’s law a reality.”
Jake’s Law is what advocates lovingly call S10, to honor 10-year-old Jake Honig, whose family fought valiantly to fix NJ’s program while Jake was dying of cancer.
“This will improve the quality of life for so many, and break the cycle of incarceration which has devastated families for 100 years of needless prohibition,” Ms Conway Navarro added.
Jay Lassiter has been HIV for 27 years and he has smoked cannabis the entire time. Mostly as a criminal.