New Jersey Department of Health Announces Sweeping Changes to Medical Marijuana Program

By Seth R. Tipton, Esq.
Partner 

In response to Executive Order 6 issued by Governor Murphy that required the New Jersey Department of Health (the “Department”) to review the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program (the “Program”), the Department published a slew of regulatory changes and recommended legislative amendments on March 27, 2018.  Although the formal rulemaking process for the Department’s regulatory changes will follow the announcement, the Department simultaneously announced action items and interim measures to immediately broaden the Program.  The following items are among some of the most significant: 

Expansion of Authorized Debilitating Medical Conditions.  

Effective immediately following a final agency decision on March 22, 2018, the Department has expanded the definition of “debilitating medical condition” under N.J.A.C. 8:64-1.2. The new additions include chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraine, anxiety, chronic pain of visceral origin and Tourette’s syndrome. 

The Department is also editing N.J.A.C. 8:64-5.2 and 5.3 to eliminate barriers to the addition of other medical conditions.  The Department intends to drop the requirement that petitions for eligible conditions go before the Medical Marijuana Review Panel, avoiding a “lengthy review process” in “extraordinary circumstances.”

Request for New Applications and an Endorsement System.

In its discussion of a new endorsement system, the Department indicated that there would be a future Request for Applications for new applicants for Alternative Treatment Centers or ATCs.  It is now clear that the Department will be seeking new licensed facilities in the State for medical marijuana.

The new endorsement system would replace or amend N.J.A.C. 8:64-7.1 and 7.9, which require ATCs to “conduct all operations” at a single site, with a new endorsement system that would break the permitted activities into distinct groups.  Permittees could expect an endorsement program that allows ATCs to conduct (a) cultivation and harvesting; (b) manufacturing and processing; and (c) dispensing medical marijuana as discrete businesses at separate locations.  

Elimination of the Physician Registry.

Responding to concerns that the physician registry presented yet another roadblock to patient access to medical marijuana, the Department intends to abolish the physician registration required under N.J.A.C. 8:64-2.4. Under the rule that will be proposed, any New Jersey physician in good standing and registered with the State Division of Consumer Affairs to prescribe controlled dangerous substances will be permitted to authorize patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana. 

Recommended Amendments to the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

In addition to these significant regulatory changes, the Department made a series of recommendations to the New Jersey legislature for changes to the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. 

Removal of Non-Profit Requirement ATCs.

Anticipating a future Request for Applications and an increase of the number of ATCs, the Department recommends removing the non-profit requirement for existing ATCs in N.J.S.A. 24:61-7(a).  The Department contends this change would promote “parity between all [ATCs],” as new applicants would not bound by the same non-profit requirement.

Allow Edibles for All Patients.

Current law only permits minors to use edible products pursuant to N.J.S.A. 24:61-7(a).  The suggested amendment would broaden this use to all patients, as it is “healthier . . . than smoking,” and would minimize problems for patients with dexterity issues and would offer an option with easier dosage standards.

Increase Maximum Monthly Product Limit.

Following the lead of Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, that either allows patients to have a 30-day supply without reference to the quantity (Pennsylvania, New York) or up to six ounces (Delaware), the Department recommends doubling the amount of medical marijuana patients may be authorized to have in a 30-day period from two ounces under N.J.S.A. 24:61-10(a) to four ounces. 

Seth R. Tipton is Partner in Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli and heads the Firm’s cannabis, health care and corporate practices.  Seth can be reached at (908) 454-8300 or stipton@floriolaw.com.   Click here to view Seth’s bio.

 

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