On March 27, 2018, New Jersey approved a significant expansion of its medical marijuana program. Reforms include eligibility for patients with anxiety, chronic pain, migraines and Tourette’s syndrome. The move is expected to expand the number of eligible patients far beyond the current level of 18,874. Registration fees will be lowered for patients and the public registry for participating physicians abolished. Currently only 536 out of 28,000 physicians are registered in the program. The loosening of these restrictions aims to address the low rate of participation by doctors and patients relative to other comparably populated states. Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2010.
“We are changing the restrictive culture of our medical marijuana program to make it more patient-friendly,” Governor Phil Murphy said. “We are adding five new categories of medical conditions, reducing patient and caregiver fees, and recommending changes in law so patients will be able to obtain the amount of product that they need. Some of these changes will take time, but we are committed to getting it done for all New Jersey residents who can be helped by access to medical marijuana.”
New Jersey has five dispensaries, also known as Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs). A sixth ATC is preparing to open its doors in the near future. As a result of the reforms, these ATCs will be able to open satellite locations for the first time. In addition, the 10 percent limit on THC will be removed. “Patients should be treated as patients, not criminals. We will be guided by science,” Murphy said.
Further Legalization Governor Murphy, a Democrat, indicated he wants to sign legislation to legalize adult use of cannabis by the end of 2018. If the legislation succeeds, analysts predict legalization will generate $1 billion of revenue in its first year.
New Jersey has two competing legalization bills under consideration in the legislature that vary regarding the proposed rate of taxation, legality of home cultivation, the number of shops permitted to operate and the level of government regulation. Political momentum for cannabis reform has been growing in the wake of successful programs in Colorado, Washington and other states. Some New Jersey legislators support legalization as a method of generating revenue required for funding other budgetary obligations.
Nationwide, 29 states have medical cannabis programs. If the pending legislation succeeds, New Jersey will be the ninth state to approve recreational use. This rapidly changing landscape of cannabis law requires a diverse array of legal services. Important areas include business formation & governance, commercial transactions, regulatory compliance, labor & employment, professional liability, product liability, intellectual property, insurance coverage and tax assistance. Because cannabis laws vary from state to state, national firms will undoubtedly lead this rapidly expanding area of specialization.
You are encouraged to contact any of the attorneys in Wilson Elser’s Cannabis Law practice if you have questions or need assistance with the matters discussed here.