The 2018 dispensary lawsuit regarding the six licenses granted by the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) has been won by the applicants who brought the suit.
“Numerous indisputable anomalies in the scoring of the appellants’ applications prevent us from having sufficient confidence in the process adopted by the Department or its results for the approval of ATCs in this important industry that provides “beneficial use[s] for . . . treating or alleviating the pain or other symptoms associated with” certain medical conditions. N.J.S.A. 24:6I-2(a). It is for this chief reason that we remand to the Department to undertake further steps to ameliorate these concerns,” the judges said in their decision.
“This is really telegraphing to the DOH, the CRC (Cannabis Regulatory Commission), and Treasury, this is not something that can be done in a haphazard way,” Joshua Bauchner, the lead attorney for the applicants said regarding the court’s decision.
He is an attorney with the firm Ansell Grimm, & Aaron PC.
In addition to Bauchner, John Bartlett, Seth Tipton, Jason F. Orlando, Kevin McKeon, Sean Mack, Stuart Lederman, and Christopher D. Zingaro represented the applicants in the dispensary lawsuit. Deputy Attorney General Jacqueline R. D’Alessandro argued the case for the NJDOH. Arguments were heard by three NJ Superior Court judges in October.
The appellants’ lawyers argued the scoring process was fundamentally flawed.
“This is unprecedented,” said Bauchner. “It confirms the seriousness with which the court viewed the problems with patient access.”
“I think it’s terrific,” he said regarding the court’s decision. “The court clearly had serious concerns about the DOH ‘s process and recognized there needed to be public confidence in that process, and it could not continue in this way.”
Bauchner explained there needs to be additional transparency, quality control, and review. He noted that the decision recognizes the process needs to be “free from anomalies and irregularities, and the public can have confidence in the integrity of the process.”
When asked if this will lead to a favorable outcome for the 2019 dispensary lawsuit preventing the issuing of 24 medical cannabis dispensary licenses, Bauchner said, “One can only hope. That’s about as clear as you can be at what’s coming down the road” regarding the court’s reasoning.
The NJODH could not be reached by the time this was published.
Dispensary Lawsuit Consequences
One hundred and three businesses applied for the six licenses handed out in 2018. Of those six, only Justice Grown in Ewing and Be in Atlantic City have yet to open. TerrAscend’s Apothecarium in Phillipsburg was the latest to open yesterday.
What happens next regarding the six licenses was unclear to Bauchner in terms of the licenses given out.
He noted it gives them the opportunity to issue additional licenses, which is what he would like to see. It could also invalidate the licenses issued. That would not be ideal since there is a widespread consensus that New Jersey’s medical cannabis program suffers from a lack of affordable, quality cannabis.
Regarding the decision, Bauchner said it is not likely they won due to the imminent legalization of adult-use cannabis.
“I think the court recognizes this is a billion-dollar industry. There’s 100,000 patients,” he said.