New Jersey Senate approves medical cannabis expansion bill as lawmakers postpone recreational vote until 2020

The bill includes a provision to increase patient purchasing limits from one to two ounces of cannabis per month

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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A bill created to broaden New Jersey’s medical cannabis program is making its way to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk to be reviewed for approval.

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 30, the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” was approved by New Jersey State Senate. Lawmakers voted 33 to 4 to approve the bill in the State Assembly.

If Gov. Murphy approves the bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, not only will the system double in size but also, the law would provide an increased number of cannabis cultivators with the opportunity to apply for a license to grow the plant for pharmaceutical purposes.

An overview of New Jersey’s medical cannabis expansion bill

Based on the details of New Jersey’s medical cannabis expansion bill, permits for pot-growing facilities would climb to 23 from the current 12 that have been granted. What’s more, medical cannabis patients would be allowed to have their medicine delivered to their door. If a patient wishes to consume their weed on the premises of a medical cannabis dispensary, they would also be allowed to do so, should the bill pass.

A Cannabis Regulatory Commission would be established to monitor retail sales of medical cannabis throughout New Jersey, as well as to oversee cultivation-related activity for the pharmaceutical industry. The bill would also allow patients to purchase three ounces of weed every month. This is a one-ounce increase from the previous two-ounce limit.

Gov. Murphy is prioritizing recreational cannabis legalization in New Jersey

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According to the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJSM), recreational cannabis legalization is a main priority for Gov. Murphy’s Administration.

Although the NJLM doesn’t influence legalization, the organization promotes measures that would simplify the citywide enactment of recreational legalization.

It’s not just Gov. Murphy who is optimistic about adult-use legalization; the Legislature is currently contemplating approving a chunk of legislation to legalize recreational weed. President of the New Jersey Senate, Stephen M. Sweeney, recently announced the state’s plans to arrange a public vote for legalization in 2020.

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization bill would see the creation of four different cannabis licenses and the formation of a Cannabis Control Commission. The expungement of cannabis-related convictions will also be considered for New Jersey’s recreational cannabis legalization bill in 2020. 

New Jersey’s medical cannabis bill is a step in the right direction for recreational legalization, according to Sweeney. During a recent editorial board meeting, he claimed that by expanding the state’s medical cannabis program, an adult-use market can easily transpire.

“[It is] just a back door, the way they did it in California. … If you have an itch, you’re going to get a prescription. If we want to call it medical to get it done, that’s fine. I think medical is important, I think it’s a real product. I think there are people that need the help. But I think we’re saying ‘medical’ to basically get to legalization, to be perfectly honest with you.”