New law: Medical marijuana use may be authorized by telemedicine

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed legislation into law that will allow healthcare practitioners to remotely authorize medical marijuana use via telemedicine/telehealth.

Murphy signed the bill into law on June 24, according to a press release. Sponsors of the legislation included state assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt and Joann Downey, and state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon.

The law permits healthcare practitioners to initially authorize any qualifying patient for the medical use of cannabis via telemedicine or telehealth, as long as the use of telehealth/telemedicine is consistent with the standard of care required for in-person assessment and treatment, according to the press release.

After the initial authorization, practitioners may decide whether to continue authorizing the medical cannabis via telehealth/telemedicine or to require an in-person consultation.

Upon the bill becoming law, Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington) and Downey (D-Monmouth) released a statement in which they said, “Many medicinal marijuana patients suffer from conditions that limit mobility, making frequent visits to the doctor’s office a significant barrier to the medicine they need.

“The pain relief, muscle relaxation, nausea prevention and anxiety reduction of medical marijuana are too important to the people suffering from severe medical conditions to be hindered by in-person doctor visitation requirements.

“This law will use today’s technology to help provide easier access to this beneficial medication on behalf of the people who need it the most,” Lampitt and Downey said.

In a statement, O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said, “Digital authorization will enable qualified medical cannabis patients who are medically fragile and homebound to mitigate their suffering.

“Those who are terminally ill, in hospice care, confined to long-term care facilities, developmentally disabled or certified homebound could benefit from easier access to prescriptions.

“Telemedicine is the healthcare of the future and the (coronavirus) pandemic demonstrated its value. Technology that has significantly changed the medical industry can help improve the everyday health and wellness of New Jersey residents who rely on medical cannabis to alleviate pain and treat medical conditions,” he said.

O’Scanlon has been a supporter of medical marijuana expansion. In July 2019 his legislation, known as the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, was signed into law by Murphy, according to a press release.

“Medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for an ever-expanding list of conditions, even replacing highly addictive opioid medications for some people,” O’Scanlon said.