When Jake Honig was 3 years old, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

After multiple surgeries, the Howell boy underwent debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His father, Mike, said the only drug that would relieve the pain and nausea was medical marijuana.

“He would go to school, he would play sports, he would excel in everything he did while on medical marijuana, and it kept those treatments somewhat tolerable," Honig said Tuesday.

In January last year, at the age of 7, Jake died. Now his parents are pushing for an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program.

New Jersey has come close to legalizing recreational marijuana only to see legislative efforts stall. Lawmakers said Wednesday that they will not vote on the legalization this year.

But a lawmaker who is skeptical about plans to legalize weed says he's all for expanding the medical marijuana program in the meantime.

During a news conference at the Statehouse on Tuesday, state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, announced that he will formally introduce a medical marijuana expansion bill on Thursday.

“I’m here today to suggest that we pivot,” he said. “Knowing what we know now, it would be a mistake to continue to hold up expansion of the medical program, which is so critical to people who are critically ill.”

Honig said that during his son’s final few months, morphine and Oxycontin were ineffective.

“We would give Jake his medical cannabis and it would completely turn around his symptoms," he said.

But Honig explained at the end of Jake’s life he was not able to get a sufficient amount of medical pot for his son because the law restricts purchase amounts to 2 ounces.

 

O'Scanlon says expanding medical marijuana program will not hinder efforts to legalize recreational weed down the road.

“We need to focus on what we can get done, rather than continue to focus on what some people would like to get done, and possibly risk getting nothing done," he said. “It’s OK to pivot, it’s time to pivot, and it’s morally essential that we do that.”

Honig said he supports medical marijuana expansion immediately because “there are patients today that don’t have a year to wait, or two years or six months, or even some weeks.”

“Because as their symptoms get worse, they’re going to run into the same struggles as we did,” he said. “We’re not fighting for Jake, but we’re continuing Jake’s fight for other children like him.”

O’Scanlon said the program must be expanded so families can get the amount of medical marijuana they need.

“If you have a sick child, you don’t want to be buying a material on a street corner that you’re going to have your child ingest, not knowing what might be added," he said. “This drug works dramatically for many people and we have to see to it that we can provide it to folks the amount they need.”

He said if the medical marijuana program is expanded, costs could drop from $450 an ounce to less than $100.

A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy, an enthusiastic supporter of legalizing marijuana, said his office cannot comment on pending legislation. Murphy has already expanded the medical marijuana program and says he’s committed to working with the Legislature to continue those efforts.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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