Duane Morris partner Paul Josephson provided an update on New Jersey cannabis legislation during the “Cannabis 204: The Roundup of State Cannabis Legislation” webinar.
The full video replay of the webinar is also available.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday signed a cannabis decriminalization and expungement statute, a sort of second prize following the state’s failure to pass legalization of adult use of cannabis in June. The bill takes effect in 30 days and provides just a violation (like a traffic ticket) for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. The new law also sets up a procedure for those convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis to seek expungement of their records. The fine for possession of less than an ounce will be $50, or $200 if you possess between one and two ounces.
Many were disappointed when the Democrat-controlled legislature failed to complete legalization with its Democrat Governor. Key legislators blamed the Governor for his apparent unwillingness to be more hands on in pressuring some Senators to support the bill. Cuomo, for his part, said that if the majority support was not there, it was not for him to push. Much of the disagreement related to how far to take embedding social justice efforts into the law and how to use tax revenues to help communities long impacted negatively by the war on drugs. Many hope there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue when the legislature next convenes in January.
As the fourth largest state with 19 million people, New York legalizing adult use would be a major step for the industry. New Jersey also failed to pass adult use legislation this year and intends to put it up for a voter referendum in 2020. New York law does not permit referendums short of a Constitutional convention. Empire State voters decide on whether to hold a convention every 20 years, and voted down the effort in 2017. The industry was pleased when Illinois, the sixth largest US state with almost 13 million people, passed adult use legalization last month, the 11th state to fully legalize cannabis.
Just days after the NJ Senate and Assembly close in on expansion of medical use Cannabis, the New Jersey Department of Health (“Department”) published notice of a Request of Applications (“RFA”) for an additional 108 alternative treatment center (“ATC”) permits which authorize holders to cultivate, manufacture, and/or dispense medicinal marijuana. The Public Notice is available here, while the RFA is summarized below and available in full here.
In response to Executive Order No. 6, issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, the New Jersey Department of Health (the “Department”) reviewed certain elements of New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and the implementation of the Medical Marijuana Program (“MMP”) (Executive Order 6 Report). …
The Department’s analysis resulted in the recommendation and approval of an immediate expansion to the MMP. The first stage of the expansion includes the addition of five conditions to the existing list of diagnoses for which medicinal marijuana can be prescribed. Patients with chronic pain related to Musculoskeletal Disorders, Migraines, Anxiety, chronic pain of Visceral Origin, and Tourette’s Syndrome are now eligible to participate in the MMP.
Just a week in office, Governor Phil Murphy has taken the first step in process of bringing much needed reform to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. He signed an Executive Order today calling for his Commissioner of Health and the Board of Medical Examiners to report back in 60 days concerning expansion of the currently limited medical marijuana program consisting of five operating centers.
New Jersey’s existing medical marijuana program is problematic and ineffective for a number of reasons. The current program allows for a very limited number of qualifying patient conditions, has an overly burdensome regulatory process and associated administrative fees that discourage both doctor and patient participation, has an arbitrary and unnecessary limit on the amount of dispensaries permitted to operate in the state. It also places illogical limits on the types of medical cannabis strains permitted to be sold in each dispensary.
Stay tuned for more developments.
As we get ready to stick a fork in 2017, the speculation has begun as to which US states might consider legalizing full adult use of cannabis next year. Many are betting on these five: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Nebraska. And of course New Jersey is expected to legalize adult use under new Governor-elect Phil Murphy. Certainly an interesting mix! Some don’t even have legal medical cannabis yet and would try to do both at the same time. Of these one would think Arizona, NJ and Florida, particular tourist destinations already, could really benefit from legalization.
Why does this matter? For several reasons. First, the steamroller that is the state legalization and growing public acceptance of adult use of cannabis is clearly strengthening. Second, knowing which states may be next creates business opportunities. For example, real estate speculators can buy up locations that might be useful for growing, processing or selling cannabis. In the absence of federal trademark registration being available, seeking state trademarks on potential brands in these upcoming locations also could be beneficial. Others like technology providers are working to ensure that states’ regulatory schemes are designed to accommodate their products.
We will learn shortly whether the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, preventing the spending of federal enforcement dollars against state legal medical cannabis businesses, will survive in the next budget bill. Some are challenging its renewal, but a strong bi-partisan effort to retain it has been building as well. As more states look to legalize cannabis, one hopes that the Feds will continue their prior mostly hands off approach from a regulatory perspective, despite the recent threatening tone of the Attorney General Jeff Sessions.