New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy recently signed a bill to expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program. The bill, S2426, is being called the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act” in honor of Jake Honig.

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Beside Gov. Murphy when he signed the bill was Gianna Honig, Jake’s sister. In 2012, her brother Jake was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of childhood brain cancer. He was just 7 years old at the time of his diagnosis.

In his battle against cancer, Jake endured numerous invasive treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, all of which caused debilitating side effects for him. Jake’s parents, Mike and Janet Honig, used medical cannabis obtained from the New Jersey medical program to make oil for their son.

According to state law, however, their supply was limited to two ounces a month. Each month, Jake would run out of his medication weeks before he was able to access more.

In an interview with NJ Advance Media, his father said, “When Jake was off his medical marijuana, he would vomit, he would be nauseous. He would be in so much pain, he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t sleep. He was agitated. When we would start to run law, we would substitute it with oxycontin or morphine and he became angry and belligerent. The side effects…would make him cry. Jake battled for five years…Jake underwent brutal treatments.”

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Jake passed away on January 21, 2018, only days after Gov. Murphy took office.

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Expanding The List Of Qualifying Conditions

The bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program was signed at a ceremony held at Tommy’s Tavern in Freehold, New Jersey. The new legislation will amend existing laws restricting medical marijuana use in New Jersey, expanding the list of qualifying medical conditions.

According to wording of the bill, “S2426 authorizes medical marijuana for treatment of any diagnosed condition; revises requirements for physicians to authorize qualifying patients; and revises requirements for alternative treatment center operations and permitting.”

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The expanded list of qualifying medical conditions includes cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, opioid-use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and seizure disorders. The legislation intends to reduce the number of patient visits to once a year.

Medical patients will be allowed up to 3 ounces a month. Nursing homes and hospice centers will be permitted to purchase and dispense medical cannabis to patients. Medical patients registered in other states will be allowed to access New Jersey’s medical marijuana program for up to 6 months.

The bill would also allow for home delivery. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners with advanced certifications will now be allowed to authorize medical cannabis use as well.

Medical cannabis became legal in New Jersey back in 2010. Since legalization, however, the large number of medical patients attempting to join the state program have supply shortages, creating long lines at dispensaries, and limiting access overall.

Prior to adding his signature, Gov. Murphy remarked, “We were one of the first states to have a medical marijuana regime…it just didn’t take off. A lot of us have come to an understanding of how medical marijuana can be used to help patients.”