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Medical marijuana law named for Howell youngster approved by Senate

A bill that is named for Jake Honig, a Howell youngster who was able to use cannabis oil to ease his pain as he battled a disease that eventually claimed his life, passed the state Senate by a vote of 33-4 on May 30 and awaits a final vote in the state Assembly before it can be sent to Gov. Phil Murphy.

If the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act reaches Murphy’s desk, the governor can sign the bill into law, veto the bill or issue a conditional veto that would request that certain changes be made in the legislation.

Jake “The Tank” Honig, 7, died on Jan. 21, 2018, following a five-year battle with cancer. Near the end of his life, his parents, Mike and Janet Honig, used cannabis oil to treat the pain their son was experiencing. They have since lobbied state legislators and Gov. Murphy to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

According to a statement in the legislation, the bill would revise New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, “including revising the requirements to authorize a patient for medical marijuana, expanding the types of health care practitioners who can authorize medical marijuana for qualifying patients; increasing the quantity of medical marijuana that can be dispensed to certain patients; establishing institutional caregivers who can assist patients and residents in health care facilities with the medical use of marijuana; revising the permit requirements for alternative treatment centers; and establishing additional protections for registry cardholders.”

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) voted “yes” on what he called “a critical bill to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.”

“I am proud to be a prime sponsor of this legislation and vote ‘yes’ on its passage. However, I do believe there are some areas of the bill we can improve upon,” O’Scanlon said in a press release.

“I would like to see us phase out the tax on medical cannabis completely within two years, if not immediately, and certainly not add another tax. I don’t believe we should be taxing medication at all.

“I’m thrilled we are finally expanding this efficacious program (for medical marijuana), which has been tremendously helpful for some of our sickest residents,” the senator said.

“One need look no further than Jake Honig’s remarkable story to understand how valuable this medication can be, and how critical it is that we move forward with an expansion of our medical cannabis program in some form.

“I enthusiastically voted ‘yes’ because we should never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I see room for improvement in the program and I look forward to continuing to be involved in the push for those improvements as well.

“Should this bill be signed by the governor in its current form, we will be introducing a bill package that will create an avenue to remediate our concerns. Today was a win, but we still have much work to do on the road ahead,” O’Scanlon said.

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