Although Governor Jon Corzine signed the law legalizing the growing and selling of medical marijuana in the state of New Jersey all the way back in 2010, current Governor Chris Christie has tied it up in legislation and there is arguing over the proposed rules. On Monday, October 15th, the first medical marijuana dispensary was finally granted a permit to begin selling.
This law states limits the number of dispensaries to six total, at least for the time being. There will be two per region — in southern, northern and central New Jersey. These dispensaries are nonprofits that are also called alternative treatment centers. Five of the six centers are still trying to pin down a steadfast location or are going through background checks or city permit issues. It will be months before they open their doors for business.
The only dispensary that has received it’s license is Greenleaf Compassion Center of Montclair. The center worked hard to meet all the legal requirements, but still has not opened its doors for business. The State Health Commissioner, Mary O/Dowd, explains that Greenleaf cannot start to sell medical marijuana until the health department has mailed out identification cards to the currently 190 registered patients. Another 130 patients are in the process of registration. Once a person has been registered, Greenleaf is expected to contact the patient to schedule an appointment. So it seems that in this tangled web, everyone is waiting on everyone else.
Once a dispensary finally does open to the public, patient’s must come at their appointed time and present their registration card. Patients will be prescribed the drug in quarter ounce amounts, but the maximum allowed is two ounces within a 30 day time period. The potency of the drug will also be less than most all other medical strains, with a cap on the THC content at 10%, as opposed to the more common 20% in other states with legalized medical marijuana.
There is a registration fee of $200 dollars for a two year medical marijuana registration card, though almost half the patients meet the low-income requirements and only have to pay $20. There are 175 doctors registered in New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program and they must attest to having seen and diagnosed every patient that walks into an alternative treatment center asking for cannabis. Some local communities objected to the idea of a dispensary in their community, believing it would be a cause for more crime in their neighborhood.
Although medical marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Colombia, there is technically a federal law prohibiting marijuana use in general. States are allowed to grow and sell the product as long as it is only given to people who are sick and as long as state regulations are obeyed. New Jersey is seen as having the most severe medical marijuana restrictions, only allowing it to be prescribed to patients with very severe illnesses like HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and terminal cancer. Some believe these restrictions to be valid, and others think that all the lengthy arguing about the specifics has caused many patients to needlessly suffer while awaiting government decisions.