NJ Superior Court Reinforces Stay Against Department of Health Relating to Medical Marijuana Alternative Treatment Center Applications

Court clarifies Dec. 2019 order granting Ansell Grimm & Aaron’s request for a stay of all administrative proceedings relating to all applications for medical marijuana alternative treatment centers.

Ansell Grimm & Aaron’s Cannabis Law attorneys, including practice chair Joshua S. Bauchner and Rahool Patel, represent various companies which applied for medical marijuana licenses with the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH).

On January 13, 2020, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division issued an order which clarifies its stay against the DOH. The order states:

“We clarify our December 23, 2019 order granting a stay of all administrative proceedings relating to all applications for medical marijuana alternative treatment centers permits submitted in response to Respondent’s [DOH] July 1, 2019 Request for Applications, to include all administrative activities relating to the entire administrative review process, including but not limited to, ranking of applications, scoring of applications, awarding permits and publishing results.”

“This is yet another win for our clients all of which have properly followed the DOH’s procedures and have systematically and unfairly been disqualified from receiving permits for medical marijuana ATCs,” said Bauchner. “The DOH, whose duty is to protect the health and welfare of New Jersey citizens, is consciously causing qualified patients to lack access to needed medical treatments, not to mention tying up millions of dollars of our clients’ and other applicants’ money and holding up hundreds of potential new jobs in New Jersey.”

While the firm and its clients focus on the appeal, the ultimate goal is for the DOH to simply permit the appellants to resubmit the applications to ensure the best qualified applicants are selected; and not those who were simply lucky enough to survive the DOH’s faulty online application portal. There are 24 medicinal marijuana licenses available that are being held up while more than 60,000 qualified patients seek access to a limited supply of medical marijuana from the only seven dispensaries operating in the state which has a total population of nearly nine million residents.

Bauchner said, “The simple solution would be for the DOH to allow appellants to resubmit to permit the scoring, ranking and issuance of permits as soon as possible. The DOH, instead, is being unfair. The number of registered patients in NJ has increased six-fold in recent years; demand is vastly exceeding supply, and dispensaries don’t have enough product. It’s time for the DOH to make decisions in the best interest of the citizens of New Jersey and the unfairly treated, and highly qualified, applicants.”

The procedural history follows.

On July 1, 2019: DOH posted a Request for Applications (“RFA”) for operation of new Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), including four Vertically Integrated ATCs. The DOH set a deadline for submitting applications in response to the RFA of August 21 and 22, 2019. The DOH encouraged prospective applicants to submit documents in PDF format through an online portal. On or prior to the application deadline, appellants and other applicants submitted applications utilizing the DOH’s online portal. Nearly two months later, on November 18 and 19, 2019, the DOH belatedly issued a notice rejecting certain applications alleging that some of the electronically filed documents were inaccessible to reviewers. Therefore, appellants have been excluded from the RFA process despite submitting all the required documents to the DOH in a timely fashion.  Ansell Grimm & Aaron filed nine appeals, of which there are 15 in total arising from this same issue. Thereafter, the Cannabis Law attorneys filed various motions to enjoin the DOH from all administrative proceedings relating to the applications while the Court reviewed the applicants’ claims that the DOH’s denials were unfair. The claims against the DOH are extensive.