Finally, Access in New Jersey Has Eased.
For individuals on hospice, medical marijuana may be the only drug that brings relief from pain while giving quality of life at the end-of-life. This was the experience of Jake Honig, a little boy who died at the age of seven after living with brain cancer for five years. During those years, Jake went through two surgeries, 61 rounds of radiation, 20 rounds of chemotherapy and a roller coaster of remissions and relapses.
The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act brings much needed reforms to the access of medical marijuana in New Jersey. Jake’s parents fought long and hard with other activists to bring about such changes as unlimited access for patients on hospice.
“Our biggest obstacle was running out of medicine, something that no parent should ever have to endure,” said Mike Honig a Howell resident whose son, Jake, died at age 7 of brain cancer and is the bill’s namesake.
“Your child goes through everything that’s asked. Surgeries. Radiation. Chemotherapy.
And then when it comes time where you can no longer save his life, all you can do is keep him comfortable, you should be allowed to do that.”
The Honig’s made it clear that the program wasn’t easy to use. When Jake would run out of medical marijuana, his parents would have to give him morphine and oxycodone to manage the pain, leaving their son with what they said were devastating side effects.
But when they gave him medical marijuana, they saw a change. Jake’s pain subsided. He ate and drank. He played video games and watched movies.
Some of the changes to access medical marijuana include:
- An increase to 3oz per month can be recommended
- An increase in qualifying conditions
- Additional Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC) permitted around the state
- Reduction in ID card fee from $200 to $100 and a fee of $20.00 for seniors 65 and older, veterans and individuals needing public assistance
- Mandatory doctor visits once a year instead of every three months
Work is being done to iron out the details on these new options:
ATC’s can now create edibles
Current conditions to qualify in New Jersey:
The list of qualifying conditions will continue to expand as the Department of Health reviews petitions and holds hearings. There are nuances to certain qualifying conditions like HIV and Cancer. To qualify, these diagnoses must be associated with chronic pain, nausea, vomiting and wasting disease. Talk to your doctor, they make the determination on your qualification.
- Terminal illness with prognosis of less than 12 months to live
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Muscular dystrophy (MD)
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease
- Seizure disorder, including epilepsy
- Tourette Syndrome
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic Pain
- Intractable skeletal spasticity
- Opioid Use Disorder
- Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Healthcare Practitioner requirements:
The first step to access is finding a healthcare practice where a Doctor, Physician Assistant (PA) or Advanced Nurse Practitioner (NPA) is licensed to prescribe Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS). Medical marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, so a healthcare practitioner enrolled in the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) writes a “recommendation” not a “prescription”. Be aware that these doctor visits are often not covered, so you may have to pay out-of-pocket.
- The healthcare practitioner must certify that you have a qualifying condition
- They can recommend up to 3oz per month, with no limits if you are on hospice
- Once a year you must be recertified by your recommending doctor
- A relationship with a CDS licensed doctor may make it easier to get the recommendation. If you are a new patient expect to undergo a complete medical history and physical.
Patient and Caregiver Enrollment in the Medical Marijuana Program
Upon receiving the reference number from your doctor, you are required to register as a new patient with the NJ.gov Medical Marijuana Program website. Payment and the following documents must be uploaded at this time. Access to the MMP portal is available through a Smartphone, tablet or computer. Overseen by the Department of Health, you can apply for an ID card, check your status and Dr. appointments through the portal.
- Passport photo
- NJ ID
- roof of residency
- $100 for the ID card. A $20.00 payment is required of low-income individuals, 65+ seniors and veterans.
If you are unable to get to an ATC dispensary, then caregiver (they do not need to be a family member) can go in your place. Caregivers can pick up a dosage for up to two people. A caregiver must register with the same documentation as the patient and undergo a criminal background check as part of the registration requirements. Caregivers are issued their own ID card. As stated previously, work is being done to figure out how to offer home delivery.
One of the changes attributed to the “Jake Honig” law, is that employees of Long-Term Care and Skilled Nursing Facilities as “institutional caregivers” can manage the medical marijuana medication. Families no longer must go to the facility to give the dosage.
Once the Department of Health (DOH) verifies your information and payment, you are sent an ID card and can fulfill your recommendation from one of Alternative Treatment Centers. Please be aware that your patient and/or caregiver MMP card must be carried on you at all times.
Alternative Treatment Centers (serving over 52,000 NJ patients currently)
Curaleaf in Bellmawr is the only ACT that has lozenges and topical solutions. Jake’s Law allows for edibles. Check the NJ Gov Medical Marijuana Program web site to see when the new ATC locations will be open.
These ATC’s are open for dispensing:
Greenleaf ATC: Montclair
Harmony Foundation ATC: Secaucus
Garden State Dispensary, Woodbridge
Breakwater ATC, Cranbury
Curaleaf ATC, Bellmawr (lozenges & topical solutions available)
Compassionate Care Foundation: Egg Harbor Twp.
Newly named ATC’s in the process of opening:
Phillipsburg, NETA, LLC
Paterson, GTI New Jersey, LLC
Rahway, (Cultivation Site): Verano NJ LLC
Ewing, Justice Grown
Atlantic City, (Dispensary)
Galloway, (Cultivation) MPX
Vineland, Columbia Care
Medical marijuana helps with the chronic pain of arthritis, degenerative disc disease, loss of appetite, and other problems associated with aging and illness. If a generational taboo about smoking marijuana makes someone uncomfortable in using it, you can try a topical solution or lozenge. In addition, Jake’s Law allows for edibles. A lollipop form of cannabis may be a much easier sell to your senior.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.