FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP - When he was sick with brain cancer, seven-year-old Jake “The Tank” Honig found that nothing helped with his chronic pain, routine vomiting, and constant nausea. He couldn’t walk or play with his sister or friends, and could barely swallow a sip of water, let alone eat. The regimen of painkillers and anti-nausea medication administered at his home hospice care did little to relieve his pain, producing side effects that his dad, Mike said were “so brutal and barbaric it was hard to watch.”
Then his family gave him medical cannabis to treat his pain instead - and Jake’s condition rapidly improved.
Now able to laugh, play video games, and enjoy his favorite foods, Jake’s quality of life greatly increased - until a point. Over time, his body built up a tolerance to the cannabis that had kept his pain and nausea under control. Soon, his family found that they were back to square one.
The reason: Under New Jersey law, dispensaries were barred from giving patients more than two ounces of cannabis per month for treatment, no matter how grave the patient’s condition. As a result, kids like Jake could temporarily taste freedom from their pain, but often not permanently. Many other patients with chronic pain were unable to do even that much, failing to qualify because of their unique condition.
This Tuesday, however, the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act” was finally signed into law, dramatically expanding the ability of New Jersey patients to access medical cannabis.
“This moment is a victory for patients and families from every corner of our State, delivering medical justice to every person who has waited for this law to become a reality,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold), the law’s prime sponsor, as the bill (A-20) was signed Tuesday morning. “Jake’s Law is a win for compassion, for leadership, and for the quality of life of every person it benefits.”
Downey also thanked the members of the Honig family, including Jake’s parents Janet and Mike, his sister Gianna, and much of his extended family for their lengthy fight to bring the law into existence, noting her gratitude for their passion, courage, and leadership.
For patients like Jake, who rely on cannabis to relieve debilitating pain, the new law expands the monthly limit from 2 to 2 ½ ounces right away, and to 3 ounces shortly afterward. For any patients receiving hospital care or with a terminal illness, the limit is abolished entirely.
Previously, patients were provided only unprocessed cannabis for treatment, requiring them to cook it down to an oil in their kitchen while guessing at the dosage of what they produce. Now, dispensaries can sell medical cannabis in many different forms, including topicals, edibles, and oils, which makes it much easier for families and providers to ensure that patients are receiving the right amount and type of treatment for their pain.
“There are many patients like Jake and families like the Honigs in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune), who joined Downey in sponsoring the bill. “These much-needed changes come together to create a system of common-sense reforms that will make our laws kinder, more compassionate, and more supportive of those in need.”
The Jake Honig Medical Marijuana Act also expands the types of diseases that can be treated with medical cannabis to a much broader list, expanding relief to thousands more chronic pain sufferers across New Jersey. Instead of needing to drive hours to a specific dispensary, patients will be able to purchase cannabis products from any registered medical dispensary or clinic, giving them much-needed flexibility and cutting down on obstacles to treatment.
“Jake Honig passed away last January, his fight with cancer coming to a final and tragic end,” Downey said. “But the passion, courage, and leadership of his parents have kept his spirit alive as they have fought for patients like him across every corner of our State. This new law is a win for compassion, for leadership, and for the quality of life of every person it benefits. For every little boy and girl in the hospital right now, wondering when their pain will stop, help is finally on the way.”