NJ Senate approves medical marijuana expansion

David Madden
May 30, 2019 - 4:10 pm
medical marijuana

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The New Jersey state Senate has joined the Assembly in approving sweeping expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. 

There was an effort to put off a vote to take the sales tax off medical marijuana, which failed. The final tally: 33-4 with three abstentions, even though some supporters weren’t completely pleased with the finished product.

"I’ve seen firsthand how much better certain individuals do on medical cannabis than they do on opioids," said Union County Democratic state Sen. Nick Scutari, who is one of the prime sponsors. "And many times, doctors prescribe opioids under our current law because it’s just so much easier. And this bill attempts to circumvent that and make it much more streamlined so it is treated more as a mainstream medication."

The bill allows larger marijuana prescriptions, makes it easier for someone to get hold of, and expands the network of cultivators and suppliers. The bill also still allows for the sales tax to be imposed, which, for some, only makes the financial burden harder.

A five-member panel would also be set up to administer the program, which is now run through the Department of Health. 

When medical marijuana was approved in the waning days of the Corzine administration, Bergen County Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale voted against it.

He says his views have evolved over time, but still abstained on the measure. His concern deals with how effective medical marijuana really is in addressing someone’s pain when there is a better and cheaper alternative.

“We will tell the public that we think marijuana is the better source when in fact, many, many, many researchers today believe that hemp is the answer to these problems,” he said.

The senate bill contains some minor changes which kicks the legislation back to the Assembly for a final vote, probably next week.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who’s viewed this as his plan B to recreational marijuana — which is going nowhere, for now — is weighing his options, assuming the measure gets to his desk. ​