Lawmakers in New Jersey took steps this week toward enshrining protections for marijuana companies in the state and individuals on workers compensation prescribed to medical cannabis.
Two bills were passed out of the state Assembly committee on financial institutions on Thursday. One measure would establish protections for insurance companies and employees that do business marijuana-related companies to ensure that they will not be held liable from any state or local government for engaging in such business. The bill would also ensure that no insurer is required to engage in business with a marijuana company.
“As we move forward addressing marijuana as a medicine and holding up industries, we have to put in place, first protections for our residents, but also protections for professional businesses that participate in the industry,” said Democratic Assemblyman and sponsor of the bill Joe Danielsen, as quoted by NJ.com.
The other bill would require “workers’ compensation and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for medical marijuana under certain circumstances.”
The legislation “provides that personal injury protection automobile insurance benefits and workers’ compensation benefits must include coverage for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana provided that the insured or the employee is a qualifying patient…and at least one other medication or treatment has been attempted and found to be unsuccessful in treating the debilitating medical condition that qualified the patient for the medical use of marijuana.”
The Next Steps
Both bills, which will now be taken up by the state Senate, are a reflection of the tension that remains between states like New Jersey, where medical marijuana is legal, and the federal government, which continues to list pot as a banned controlled substance.
“I feel very strongly that we have gone in the right direction in New Jersey with medical marijuana,” Democratic Assemblywoman Joann Downey said, as quoted by NJ.com. “I think you’re pretty safe in terms of being able to go ahead and cover these things.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana on his final day in office in 2010. In December, New Jersey lawmakers passed a measure to put a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana on this year’s ballot.
Voters will decide whether to approve the measure, which if passed, would permit adults aged 21 and older to use marijuana, while imposing the state sales tax rate of 6.6225% to sales of recreational pot.