Capitol Report

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July 15, 2019

This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters.

Governor expands medical marijuana, workers’ compensation benefits

Governor Phil Murphy signed recently passed bills into law expanding accessibility to medical marijuana and eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. The New Jersey State Bar Association expressed support for the expansion of medical marijuana and made recommendations regarding the expanded availability of marijuana in New Jersey, offering to work with legislators on related regulations. The association did not support the workers’ compensation bill, which would enhance eligibility of workers’ compensation for a specific group of petitioners.

Regarding medical marijuana, the governor heralded the passage of the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, which expands patient access to medical marijuana. A-20 (Downey) modeled recommendations in the Department of Health’s report issued in March 2018 to make changes to the medical marijuana program.

“Today’s legislation creates a medical marijuana program that is modernized, compassionate, progressive and meets the needs of patients,” said Governor Murphy.

The changes to the law include:

-          Raising the monthly limit from two ounces to three ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period. Under the current law, the three-ounce limit can be maintained for 18 months, after which the maximum will be determined by regulation. Terminally ill and hospice care patients are exempt from the monthly limit effective immediately.

-          Extending the authorization period to receive medical marijuana from 90 days to one year.

-          Expanding the availability of edible marijuana to adults, which was previously restricted to minors.

-          Phasing out the sales tax over three years.

-          Permitting physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize medical marijuana usage.

-          Prohibiting employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees solely based on their status as medical marijuana patients.

-          Making available home delivery of medical marijuana.

-          Creating a Cannabis Regulatory Commission to be located in, but not as a part of, the Department of Treasury, to assume the responsibility of the medical marijuana program.

The bill was signed into law on July 2.

Governor Murphy also expanded workers’ compensation benefits last week by signing into law the Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty-First Century First Responders Protection Act. The legislation enhances protections for first responders, including the volunteers who participated in the 9/11 rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center sites. The bill creates a rebuttable presumption of coverage for certain illnesses for public safety workers, who would not be required to demonstrate causation of illnesses they suffered but would be required to provide evidence of exposure. The association lauded the aim of the bill, but did not support the rebuttable presumption, which is not available for other petitioners under the workers’ compensation system.

The bill was signed into law on July 8 and is effective immediately.