Legislators are working on a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, but the Murphy administration already is a step ahead and has announced its own expansion plan
Gov. Phil Murphy this week made good on his promise to rapidly expand the medical marijuana program in New Jersey, but his unilateral move may put the Legislature’s own expansion plan in jeopardy.
As part of the governor’s expansion, the state Department of Health announced on Monday it is seeking new applicants to operate up to 108 additional Alternative Treatment Centers in the Garden State for cultivating, manufacturing and dispensing medical marijuana. This represents a major increase. Currently, there are six ATCs in operation; another six permits have been granted but those facilities are not yet up and running.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are attempting to move their own bill that would expand the program — and it contains elements that Murphy’s plan does not. The bill (S-10) would remove medical marijuana from the Department of Health’s jurisdiction and give it to a new five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission in the Department of Treasury. It would also cap cultivator licenses at 23: Murphy’s request for applications (known as an RFA) calls for 24.
“Patients cannot continue to wait for access to life-changing medical treatment, and this week’s announcement is an important step toward ensuring sustainable and affordable access,” Murphy’s spokesperson Alyana Alfaro said in a statement. “The Department of Health is overseeing the expansion of the Medicinal Marijuana Program to ensure that it is done responsibly and in a way that puts the needs of patients first. There was no agreement on the bill as currently written.”