On September 14, 2016, New Jersey amended its medicinal marijuana law to add post-traumatic stress disorder (‘PTSD’) as a qualifying condition, permitting PTSD sufferers to gain access to this unconventional therapy for the first time.
Some background — In 2009, New Jersey became the 14th state to allow access to medicinal marijuana. Over the past seven years, 11 additional states have expanded their laws to allow access to medical marijuana. In New Jersey, the original law provided access to medical marijuana for the following conditions:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Terminal cancer;
- Muscular dystrophy;
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease;
- Terminal illness, if the physician has determined a prognosis of less than 12 months of life;
- Seizure disorder, including epilepsy;
- Intractable skeletal muscular spasticity;
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus;
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome; and
Under the amended law signed by Governor Christie, a patient with PTSD would be eligible for medicinal marijuana if she has been unsuccessful alleviating her symptoms with conventional medical therapy. Additionally, the patient would have to obtain certification of her condition from a physician with whom she has a “bona fide physician-patient relationship.”
Several other recent developments on this issue merit a brief review.
In August 2016, the Department of Health (“DOH”) asked for public input on additional qualifying conditions for the medicinal marijuana program. The petitions are now being reviewed by the New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel, which was appointed in March and will soon make a recommendation to the DOH commissioner.
The prime sponsors of New Jersey’s inaugural medicinal marijuana bill, Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, are both working on legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana. Later this month, Senator Scutari will be leading a bi-partisan, bi-cameral fact finding mission to Colorado to assess the impacts of legalization upon that state’s citizenry and economy.
The appeal of legalization extends to both Republicans and Democrats. On September 22, 2016, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a solidly conservative Republican, introduced legislation that would, among other things, legalize marijuana by removing all criminal liability associated with marijuana from the New Jersey Criminal Code.
This issue has even entered into the discussion of the 2017 gubernatorial election, with the lone declared Democrat candidate for Governor, former Ambassador Phil Murphy, coming out in favor of marijuana legalization earlier this month. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who considered then recently rejected running for governor, commissioned a poll of Jersey City residents that found that 49 percent of respondents believed that “small amounts of marijuana should be legal to sell/possess.” The Republican candidates for Governor have not yet staked out formal positions on this issue.