CANNABIS CULTURE – On January 21 2018, Jake Honig passed away peacefully in his bed at the age of seven. His life and his legacy further exposed his home state of New Jersey to the miraculous medical potential of cannabis, And his death forever changed the laws, and the public perception of cannabis.
Jake’s parents, Mike and Janet, openly shared the great impact cannabis had on Jake’s illness and quality of life. They were also vocal on what could still be improved with medical cannabis in New Jersey. Their call was heard by New Jersey lawmakers including Governor Phil Murphy. Just two days after Jake’s passing, Mike, Janet, and six-year-old Gianna gathered in the Governor’s office as he signed an executive order requiring the Department of Health to reopen the conversation of New Jersey’s medical cannabis regulations. As Jake’s story picked up more momentum, catching the attention of local news outlets, outside media, and families, the Honigs opened the dialogue even further.
Jake Honig’s Law was introduced in February 2018. If approved, the bill will lift the two ounce restriction, allow a patient’s doctor to prescribe an unlimited amount of medical marijuana, and would mean that dispensaries could sell medical cannabis in forms other than flower for easier and safer administration. Jake Honig’s Law would mean that anyone with illness and disease could be able to live out their lives comfortably, with dignity and pain at ease, as Jake did.
Jake’s memory not only lives on in his loved ones’ hearts but in this movement. His and his family’s bravery and persistence is exposing the difference that cannabis can make. The Honigs also plan on becoming majorly involved with the state’s program by assisting in campaigns that will encompass all aspects of patients receiving the treatments they deserve.
Jake Honig, along with his family, are among those who have made and continue to make radical impacts in their home community of Howell, New Jersey, as well as the whole state.
Diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two, Jake Honig, along with his parents Janet and Mike, and sister Gianna embarked on a rigorous journey that would inspire change in their own lives and their community’s, as well as New Jersey’s medical marijuana industry on a legislative level. In a state where the legal limit of purchasing medical marijuana is just two ounces every 30 days, Jake, Mike, Janet, and Gianna experienced first hand the issue with these regulations. Their story ignited a fight to implement change and greater comfort to the sick who are in need of medical cannabis. That journey— Jake’s journey— consists of perseverance and heartache but has also changed the way medical marijuana is perceived, handled, and distributed statewide. In order to tell of how one young boy used his battle with cancer to help others benefit from medical marijuana, his story will have to rewind a few years.
After receiving the diagnosis of a brain tumor with a rare genetic disorder in 2012, Jake received treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. There, at the young age of two, Jake’s inspiring strength shined during and after his extensive surgery to remove the tumor from his brain— granting him the nickname Jake “the Tank.” The year following Jake’s surgery, a staggering 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds a radiation would be pumped through his body in the attempt to rid any lingering cancer.
This treatment left Jake with high fevers, agonizing mouth sores, vomiting, to only name a few. Yet even during all the pain and hurt, Jake “The Tank” somehow managed to keep a smile on his face and his spirits high. And after a year of trips to the hospital and rounds of toxic medication Jake’s brain cancer went into remission.
For three and a half years Jake remained cancer free. With buoyant gumption, Jake and his family made up for the year they had just spent in treatment by taking memorable Honig family trips and spending as much time together as a family as possible; even getting to meet Golden State Warriors super star player Steph Curry. It was a paramount time for the Honigs— showing gratitude that Jake had beat his cancer as well as remaining conscious of the cancer’s possible returning at any moment.
In between family trips and making memories over Jake’s remission, the Honigs would attend routine appointments for Jake to be checked for any returning cancer. On his 4-year MRI scan in April 2017, it was discovered that the cancer had returned. And just like that, the Honigs and the doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia jumped back into action as they had four years before.
As the battle of Jake’s brain cancer ensued, Jake “The Tank’s” fortitude returned as well. At just six years old, Jake Honig walked himself into his own operating room just before his second brain surgery, telling his doctor to “make me good again,” something virtually unheard of for someone with Jake’s illness. That summer Jake would receive more extensive and debilitating rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Unfortunately, during Jake’s first routine MRI scan in November 2017, it was discovered that his brain tumor had returned despite his treatments and now had multiple tumors spread over his brain.
This left the Honigs with the option of one more round of chemo for Jake to slow the cancer’s progression. November was also when the Honigs decided to incorporate medical marijuana into Jake’s routine. The medication proved first-rate in providing comfort and easing Jake’s pain almost instantly. The family spent the following month at home with each other before pains in Jake’s stomach brought them back for another MRI. The scan revealed Jake’s cancer had spread down his spine.
With the discovering of tumors spread over his brain, spine, and lower back, Jake’s doctors had no choice but to deliver the dire news to his family that Jake was terminal. Mike and Janet came to decide that their son’s remaining time would be best spent at home, under the care of hospice and kept as comfortable as possible until he passed away.
During Jake’s time at home, treating his pain with medical cannabis became the family’s choice of medication. Being sent home with six different medications, the side effects and lack of easing Jake’s pain brought Janet and Mike to take Jake off them completely. The amount of comfort medical marijuana brought Jake was palpable; being able to stand, eat, sleep, and gave back Jake “the Tank’s” smile and golden attitude. However, this brought on a new set of tribulations for the family.
As New Jersey law states, those prescribed medical marijuana and their caregivers cannot purchase over two ounces of cannabis every 30 days nor is it possible to by any kind of oil, tincture, or topicals. This meant that Janet and Mike, neither of them medical marijuana professionals, would have to convert their medical flower into oil form in their own kitchen every night before distributing it to Jake. As his illness spread, Jake would ingest all of the two ounces well before their 30 day period was up.
Mike and Janet were also left to their own devices of determining the right type of strain of flower to buy, Jake’s needed dosage, the best way of administrating— all without any type of provided training or information by the state. Every two weeks Jake would need more medicine, his two ounces depleted. In an attempt to make the medical marijuana spread further, it was often incorporated with morphine. This heavy drug proved to be futile in Jake’s pain levels and would always opt for the cannabis over morphine. Although it was understood that Jake’s medication wouldn’t be living saving, time and time again cannabis would improve his daily life and ultimately gave the Honigs as much “normal” family time as possible during Jake’s final days.
Along with his trailblazing fight, Jake lives on through the rest of his contributions. He donated his brain and spine to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and thousands of dollars have been donated to different medical nonprofits and research facilities by those touched by his story. Through his sickness, Jake’s strength and optimism granted him an honorary Howell Police Officer. All 84 Howell police officers attended his funeral and two day viewing with honor guard watching over his casket.
Jake’s inspiring story has ignited a fire of life-altering change, showing that everyone deserves a quality life. Even in death, Jake lives on through his contributions and in those Jake Honig’s Law will surely help. Jake’s legacy can be followed through the hashtag #BeLikeJake and Facebook.com/JakeHonig1