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Downey Introduces Bill to Expand Access to Medical Marijuana in New Jersey

Measure Named for 7-year-old Howell Resident Diagnosed with Brain Cancer at Age 2

(TRENTON) – Aiming to increase patient access to medical marijuana, Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) has introduced legislation that would remove limits on the amount of medical marijuana allowed to be dispensed at one time and expands access to edible forms, including oils.

The bill is named after a seven-year old Howell resident nicknamed “Jake the Tank” who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive from of brain cancer with a rare genetic mutation at the age of two. After undergoing dozens of rounds of chemotherapy, proton radiation therapy, and surgery, his tumor went into remission for four years, until follow-up scans determined that the tumor had returned and spread to other parts of his body.

Jake’s doctors advised his parents that there was nothing more to be done, and he was released to hospice care in his own home, where, despite being prescribed six different medications to treat his side effects which included nausea, vomiting, agitation and acid reflux. Medical marijuana proved to be the most effective way of making Jake more comfortable. It helped to improve his mood, appetite and restore his mental well-being.

“Although medical marijuana proved to be an effective treatment for Jake, his parents noted the difficulties they encountered with the cost, quantity limits, and issues related to producing their own cannabis oil to administer to Jake,” said Downey. “In honor of Jake, who passed away in January, this bill seeks to remove certain restrictions on access to medical marijuana in order to reduce the suffering experienced by, and improve the quality of life of, New Jersey patients, like Jake, seeking treatment for a life-threatening medical condition.”

The bill would revise certain requirements concerning patient access to medical marijuana. Specifically, the bill provides for alternative treatment centers to make medical marijuana available to patients in oil form, removes restrictions that made edible forms of medical marijuana available only to qualifying patients who are minors, and removes the current two ounce limit on the quantity of medical marijuana that may be dispensed in a 30-day supply.

“The dispensing of medical marijuana has been strongly regulated in New Jersey since inception, and arguably, rightfully so; however, patients have been limited or denied access to a medicine that can help them with the ailments caused by their illness,” said Downey. “There are many patients like Jake and his family in New Jersey who deserve to make their own choices on whether to make medical marijuana a part of their medicinal regimen. They must also have access to other types of products, not just in capsule form.”

Under the bill, the patient’s physician may authorize the patient to be dispensed a 30-day supply of medical marijuana in any quantity. If the physician does not specify a quantity, the amount dispensed will be at the discretion of the alternative treatment center, based on the patient’s qualifying medical condition and an assessment of the patient’s treatment needs.