New Jersey's 13th Legislative District

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

O’Scanlon Endorses Expansion of Medical Marijuana Program

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Says current program has proven results

Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) is calling for the expansion of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon is calling for the expansion of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. (©iStock)

Discussion surrounding marijuana has ramped up following commitments by the Murphy administration and legislature to legalize marijuana. O’Scanlon has been an active part of marijuana discussions; committed to ensuring that only evidence-based and effective policy is passed.

“Based on the experience we have gleaned from the careful rollout of our Medicinal Marijuana program and the protocols put in place by the Christie administration, we now know a number of things. First, it is indeed possible to implement a medically precise marijuana program. Second, marijuana is an extremely effective drug that can supplant other, much more highly addictive, opioid medications. Lastly, it is the right time to expand our program,” O’Scanlon stated. “My staff and I have toured cannabis facilities in both Colorado and Nevada. We’ve seen what an expanded medicinal program looks like and it’s not something to fear.”

Several pieces of legislation are currently moving through the legislature that would expand the State’s medicinal program, including some to increase 2oz per month purchase cap on cannabis. O’Scanlon however has expressed some concern.

“Continuity of patient care for the existing patients in the program is something we need to always have in mind. Although I agree in spirit with some of the bills currently moving through the legislature, I have concerns about the rate of production of medical cannabis,” O’Scanlon continued.

“We have about 17,000 extremely ill patients in the program now. We have 5 alternative treatment facilities with one on the way. It takes months to license and build any new ones. It takes 4-7 months to grow. It can take a month or more for our State Lab to test. We need to be cognizant about our current capacity to expand at a reasonable rate. If we are potentially adding 150,000 new qualifying patients, we need to make sure we have a steady supply. This is not something that we can import across state lines. For now, it needs to be domestically produced.”

Proponents of the medicinal market expansion often point to the numerous documented public health benefits in States that have similarly done so. States with a robust medicinal program on average have seen a 23% decrease in opioid prescription and a significant reduction in alcohol sales/consumption.

Access to doctors willing to prescribe cannabis products to patients has also been a major criticism of the New Jersey medicinal program. The current program makes doctors register with the State and seek approval.

“Initial concerns surrounding the doctor’s registry are understandable. However, we have enough information at this point about medical marijuana, and it’s time to do away with the registry. Furthermore, we currently allow doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe any other medication. Logically, they should be able to prescribe what is proven to be a much safer and less addictive pain management system than the opioids contributing to the overwhelming addiction issues we face today.”

“We understand the reasons that the Christie administration implemented the regulations it did, but now it’s time to push for our developing program to provide greater access to more patients in need. A regulated program for patients is infinitely better for quality control as opposed to forcing these desperately infirmed individuals to turn to an illicit market for help, or continue on a path to opioid addiction.”

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