On Tuesday, @FirstLadyNJ and I will join the Honig family in Freehold to sign the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act into law. We must continue to knock down barriers so that this life-changing medical treatment is affordable and accessible. pic.twitter.com/hAGWvGZo7e
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 28, 2019
Gov. Phil Murphy said he will sign a measure on July 2 to dramatically expand the state’s medical marijuana program.
The move would mark a victory for cannabis and social justice advocates, especially after the governor and legislative leadership conceded in March that they did not have enough support for a cannabis-legalization bill to pass in the state Senate.
“On Tuesday, [First Lady Tammy Murphy] and I will join the Honig family in Freehold to sign the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act into law,” Murphy tweeted on Friday. “We must continue to knock down barriers so that this life-changing medical treatment is affordable and accessible.”
Lawmakers were slated to vote on the measure earlier this month, but Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, pulled the vote so that the governor could offer more input on the legislation.
“This one we worked intensely on with our legislative partners,” Murphy said on a June 26 News 12 New Jersey “Ask Gov. Murphy” segment.
In the bill
Assembly Bill 20 would phase out the sales tax on medical marijuana, cutting it from 6.625 percent to 4 percent on July 1, 2020, then to 2 percent on July 1, 2021. The tax would be eliminated completely on July 1, 2022. Any tax revenue from medical marijuana sales would be “exclusively appropriated to programs for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders,” according to the bill.
A prior expansion measure, Assembly Bill 10, would have retained the sales tax until January 2025.
A20 would also create a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Committee to oversee the state’s medical marijuana program. The program would be first overseen by the Department of Health before being transitioned to the CRC, but the legislation does not specify a timeframe beyond “such time as the members of the commission are appointed and the commission first organizes.”
The measure sets the number of cannabis cultivators at 28 for the first 18 months, rather than the 23 proposed in A10 or the 100 cannabis establishments Murphy proposed. Those 28 would include the six existing medical marijuana alternative treatment centers and the six awardees from a July 2018 Request For Applications process.
The 12 preexisting businesses are “vertically integrated,” meaning they handle the cultivation, manufacturing and sale of medical marijuana. While existing businesses would be grandfathered into the program as such, the new bill would bar vertical integration, allowing new entities to only engage in one component.
Hospices and nursing homes could be “institutional caregivers” in the program. And patients could get prescriptions for up to a year’s supply, an increase from 90 days and a carryover from A10. Patients could also purchase their medication from any dispensary, rather than only from the ATC at which they are registered, as required under current law.
A patient would only need one doctor visit a year, rather than four, to verify that they are eligible for the program. The bill also raises the cap on how much medicinal cannabis a patient can buy in one month to 3 ounces for 18 months, and an amount to be determined by the CRC after that time. Out-of-state patients could purchase medicinal cannabis in New Jersey for up to six months.
A20 allows for employees of ATCs to make medical marijuana deliveries, rather than requiring the service to be carried out by third parties, as A10 would have stipulated.
The measure also allows for cannabis consumption areas, which must be on the same property as the dispensary and can only be accessed by patients and their caregivers. The lounges would be restricted to outdoor venues in accordance with New Jersey’s indoor smoking laws.
Towns that host dispensaries could impose a maximum 2 percent tax on cannabis businesses.
ATCs must submit proof that they have signed and continue to honor labor peace agreements with labor organizations, which would make union organizing easier for ATC employees. The six existing ATCs would have 100 days from the bill’s enactment to produce such an agreement – so far the Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge is the only establishment with unionized workers. Businesses that cannot furnish the necessary documentation could have their ATC permits suspended or revoked.