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NJ Holds Medical Marijuana Emergency Fund Hearing

The NJ Senate Health Committee held a hearing on establishing an emergency fund to cover medical cannabis as one man sues his former boss for coverage.

The bill is S 3799 “Allows costs of medical cannabis to be reimbursed by Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, PAAD, Senior Gold and VCCO.” It would allow certain patients to be reimbursed for the costs of their medical marijuana.

It is being sponsored by Health Committee Chair Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex).

“We know traditional insurance is unable to cover the cost of medical cannabis. There are federal restrictions,” Vitale said.

He noted that due to the cost of medical marijuana, “for some people, it’s not within reach.”

Vitale added that people would be able to qualify due to financial reasons.

Medical Cannabis Emergency Fund Hearing Testimony

“Many NJMMP Patients, myself included, are financially dependent on the benefits of Social Security Disability Insurance.  Monthly SSDI benefits provide only an average of $1,290.  However, the NJ cannabis pricing is very expensive. $400/ounce or $1200 monthly for a 3-ounce recommendation,” The Coalition of Medical Marijuana of New Jersey (CMMNJ) Board Member Mike Brennan said.

“Medicinal cannabis products should also be available to patients in varying potencies and formulations,” Brennan said. “Prohibiting patients from accessing affordable products at legal dispensaries will only push these patients to seek out similar products in the unregulated illicit market. This scenario is not in the best interests of either patients or public health.”

Ken Wolski, Peter Rosenfeld, Jo Anne Zito of CMMNJ submitted slips in favor of the bill.

The Commerce and Industry Association (CIA) and lobbyist AJ Sabbath opposed the medical marijuana emergency fund.

“My one concern is that medical marijuana is going to be the only drug. Not approved by the FDA,” Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) said.

She called it a “pandora’s box” before voting no. The medical marijuana emergency fund bill passed on party lines.

In the Assembly, the companion bill is A 5760, “Allows costs of medical cannabis to be reimbursed by Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, PAAD, Senior Gold, and VCCO,” passed the Assembly Health Committee in June. Assemblymembers Herb Conaway Jr. (D-Burlington), Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), and Shanique Speight (D-Passaic) sponsored the bill in the Assembly. It passed the Assembly Health committee in a bipartisan 11-2 vote.

New Medical Marijuana Workplace Lawsuit

Jamal Campbell recently filed a federal lawsuit against Watco Companies and Watco Transloading LLC in US District Court, saying they broke state medical cannabis and anti-discrimination laws.

He became a medical cannabis patient in 2018 after injuring his back working there in 2016. Campbell worked loading cargo trains at Watco from 2014 to 2020.

When subjected to a random drug test, he noted he’d fail to the company, was tested anyway, and fired afterward. Campbell said he was not high at the time.

Radom drug testing only occurs in blue-collar jobs.

Last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court said firing medical cannabis patients is illegal as long as they don’t smoke at work.

“We believe that both Jake Honig’s Law and the Law Against Discrimination would provide protections for people who are using medical marijuana in addition to the requirements to engage in the interactive process in providing accommodations,” said Rach Haskell, the lawyer representing Campbell.

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