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‘Happy’ day for medical cannabis patients

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The Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey host a rally in front of the New Jersey statehouse to bring attention to marijuana legalization
Doug Hood, Asbury Park Press

The recreational weed bill’s demise means the act to expand medical marijuana, named after late Howell 7-year-old Jake Honig, is free to pass. His father explains why that’s urgent.

The Facebook message came in late Tuesday night, from a parent whose 5-year-old is battling brain cancer. Medical marijuana eases the child’s pain, but the parent was worried that they’d run out of cannabis because of New Jersey’s 2-ounce monthly limit for patients.

It’s a sadly familiar story for the message’s recipient, Howell resident Mike Honig. He encountered the same issue with his late son Jake, a struggle that sparked the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The bill would increase the amount patients could receive and allow those on hospice access to an unlimited amount. 

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WATCH: A medical marijuana rally in the video atop this story

More than a dozen families have reached out to Mike Honig in recent weeks, as Jake’s Act stalled because it was tethered to the controversial bill legalizing recreational weed. That changed Wednesday, when Senate President Steve Sweeney announced the legislature was kicking the recreational issue to a referendum in 2020 and fast-tracking Jake’s Act for a statehouse vote that is expected to be hassle-free. 

Jake Honig (Photo: Mike Honig)

“We’re very happy,” Mike Honig said late Wednesday. “It’s nice to see everybody come together and move forward for the sake of patients.”

He wants to make something clear.

“I agree that every aspect of marijuana in this state is very important,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I agree or disagree with each individual topic relating to marijuana. Why we put so much urgency and focus on patients is because many of them have limited time. That’s why this is such a sensitive and urgent topic.”

It’s a hard-earned insight. By the fall of 2017, Jake Honig’s rare form of brain cancer had begun spreading throughout his body. The 7-year-old came home for hospice care with a litany of painkillers, but their effectiveness was limited and the side effects were “brutal and barbaric,” as Mike Honig recalled.

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A desperate turn to medical marijuana worked wonders for Jake’s comfort, but the 2-ounce supply wasn’t enough for a full month. Jake died in January of 2018.  

“In our situation, with Jake, there was a limited time window and we hope that parents and caregivers don’t have to experience what we did in terms of running out of product,” Mike Honig said.

In addition to increasing the limit, Jake’s Act would OK the sale of medical marijuana in different forms like topicals, edibles and oils, eliminating the need for parents or caregivers to cook the cannabis down to an oil in their kitchens. The bill has garnered broad support. 

“It’s extremely humbling to know Jake is going to have an impact on patients today and for the future,” Mike Honig said. “To know Jake was a motivator for people to rally behind such an important initiative really has been something special to us. Something we’ve said is we are no longer fighting for Jake — we are continuing Jake’s fight, for the children who unfortunately are going to have a diagnosis as serious as Jake’s.”

It was cynical politics to hold Jake’s Act hostage because lawmakers couldn’t agree on recreational weed, and on Wednesday they came to their senses.

Mike Honig found out the way many folks did, through social media, a little more than 12 hours after he received the Facebook message from the exasperated parent.

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“That’s who we were thinking of today,” he said.

Jerry Carino is news columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at [email protected]

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