medical marijuna leaf

2/12/20 By DAN ULLOA

A Telehealth bill whereby medical marijuana patients can speak with a doctor remotely passed the New Jersey State Senate by a near-unanimous vote. 

Only Senator Michael Doherty (R-Warren), who is known for his conservative views, opposed it.

Telemedicine means patients can speak with a doctor either by telephone or a video conference call instead of going to the doctor’s office. This legislation is especially good for patients who cannot travel easily due to their illness, along with the cost associated with travel. It improves patient care. Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) was the sole Senate sponsor. 

“Those who rely on medical cannabis to treat their conditions will benefit from more convenient and less expensive digital doctors’ appointments,” said Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) who sponsored the bill. “Utilizing available technology is a practical approach that will improve the health and wellness of eligible New Jersey residents.”

In devising the bill, he consulted with the Coalition of Medical Marijuana for New Jersey (CMMNJ) Executive Director Ken Wolski and board member Gaetano Lardieri for advice who suggested the bill include those in nursing homes and it subsequently was.

The bill has yet to receive a hearing in the Assembly’s Health and Senior Services Committee. It is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywomen Joann Doney (D-Monmouth) and Pam Lampitt (D-Mercer). But given that it passed the Senate fairly quickly, it is likely it will not require the Herculean effort adult-cannabis needed.

If signed into law, it is supposed to take effect immediately. However, for the first 270 days (nine months) only patients who are in long-term care facilities, hospice patients, the terminally ill, and those who are officially homebound could take advantage of this. After that period, other patients could have a telemedicine appointment after an initial in-person visit to the doctor’s office.

It is exceedingly expensive for medical marijuana patients in New Jersey. The initial consultation cost between $250 and $300 and an ounce of good medical marijuana retails for around $300.

Medical Marijuana Patients and O’Scanlon

Many hoped O’Scanlon would help pass adult-use legalization in the Senate, but he ultimately did not. However, he has been a proponent of medical marijuana (or clinical cannabis) and was a leader in the fight to pass the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act. 

“Brave, beautiful Jake benefitted tremendously from medical marijuana. His legacy paved the way for the expansion of the medical program. That legacy lives on, influencing this law too!” O’Scanlon said.

We’ll see how the implementation of the telehealth bill goes.

There has not even been a rumor regarding the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) which was passed as a provision of the Jake Honig Act for months. The CRC is supposed to regulate the industry.

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