NJ’s Medical Cannabis Program Just Got a Lot Less Awful

Freehold NJ — Governor Phil Murphy today signed a bill that would dramatically improve New Jersey’s notoriously stingy medical marijuana program. Patients in NJ must currently prove their qualifying condition every 60 days to stay in compliance with NJ’s program. This includes those with terminal conditions like HIV.

The “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act,” signed into law today, is named for Jake Honig whose parents Mike and Janet were on hand to mark today’s progress.

“We are extremely humbled that this law that will affect so many patients will have Jake’s name attached to it,” Mike Honig told InsiderNJ.

Cannabis therapy dramatically improved the quality of Jake’s life as he battled the ravages of pediatric cancer.

“Especially towards the end of his life,” his father added. “(Medical cannabis) gave our family time with Jake that we would not have had. It allowed us to be together as a family. It allowed us to watch movies and laugh and watch Jake and Gianna be siblings the way a five-year-old and a seven-year-old should be together.”

Deputy Health Commissioner Jeff Brown told InsiderNJ that the heath department’s immediate priorities are the onerous recertifications and raising the 2 ounce limit.

Commissioner Brown said patients might expect regulatory relief on both counts within a  “matter of weeks.”

Be Like Jake

Jake Honig used cannabis oil instead of opiates to manage his cancer symptoms. NJ dispensaries don’t sell the kind of oil that worked best for Jake so his parents made it from scratch in the family kitchen. And they often came up against NJ’s stingy 2 oz/month limit.

Mike Honig frequently hears from families who are similarly situated.

“One of their biggest fears is running out of this medicine, experiencing what Janet and I experienced and that is running low and having to supplement in some of these other barbaric medications. And now, to be able to respond to those parents and say ‘change is coming, and although we might not be able to cure your child, at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you’ll have enough of their medicine to keep them comfortable.'”

Thanks to today’s legislation, the 2 ounce cap was stretched to 3 0z/month. And for terminally ill patients like Jake Honig, there’s no longer a monthly limit so they can get as much as they need or afford.

“And for us, that is just a beautiful thing,” Mike Honig added.

 

Jake’s Law would also:

  • 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 that’s too long for patients to wait for relief.

  • More compassion! Fewer hurdles!

Most critically, the Jake Honig Act 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 these regs are rolled out, 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 the new law’s prime sponsor.

  • Doctors decide. NOT bureaucrats.

Currently, bureaucrats decide who qualifies for medical cannabis, another reflection of NJ’s tendency to empower the government at the expense of its own citizenry.

Now, 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 47,000 people both time and (in my case) $500 a year in co-pays. Now, 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 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 cannabis in New Jersey. Even though doing so would mostly fix what ails NJ’s program. This leaves NJ at odds with other medical cannabis state where patients have the liberty to grow their own.

Today’s still a huge, positive step.

Tomorrow we’ll promptly resume agitating to improve NJ’s remorseless cannabis laws vowed Aubrey Navarro-Conway, a patient advocate from Sayreville.

”This is one chapter. This victory doesn’t mean things like social justice are less important, but today I choose to celebrate the victory for patients in the program. And to remember the reason we’re here and that’s Jake,”  Ms Navarro-Conway told InsiderNJ.

In the meantime it’s ok to stop to smell the roses and to reflect on the outsized legacy of a boy named Jake Honig whose sacrifice ensured a better quality of life for kids and their families.

 

Jay Lassiter is a long time cannabis advocate who gets his medicine from the black market. 

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  • OHAMKRW

    Don’t get between parents and the medicine those parents need for their children. It’s not a good place to be. Thank you, Mike and Janet Honig, for your advocacy.

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