Posts Tagged ‘new jersey’
by Amy Brittain, The Star-Ledger
Gov. Chris Christie today said the top boss of the Montclair-based medical marijuana dispensary “should stop complaining and get back to work.”
Christie’s comments were directed at Joe Stevens, the CEO of Greenleaf Compassion Center, which Monday became New Jersey’s first medical marijuana center to receive a permit to grow the crop.
By accusing Greenleaf of foot-dragging, the governor was in a sense turning the tables on the marijuana center. Christie and his administration have been heavily criticized for long delaying the launch of the medical marijuana program.
Reacting to news of the preliminary permit, Stevens said Monday he was unsure if Greenleaf would immediately proceed with growing. Lingering doubts about the program’s future, Stevens said, made him hesitant to plant without any guarantee of when the patients would receive access to the program.
“He knows what the requirements are,” said Christie, who held a news conference today in Bedminster. “He hasn’t met all the requirements yet. So, you know, I’m not going to get in a tit for tat with him about what he hasn’t done.”
In late March, Stevens wrote a letter to Christie and health department officials, claiming the administration had attempted to sabotage the program. Reached by phone this afternoon, Stevens declined comment until he had the opportunity to review Christie’s remarks.
>Governor Christie says that Greenleaf Compassion Center, a medical marijuana center in Montclair, has not met all of the necessary requirements to begin planting. Greenleaf CEO Joe Stevens said they will hold off until they receive more guarantees from the Christie administration about the programâs future. Greenleaf becomes the first to receive a preliminary permit to cultivate but will not disclose the location of their grow facility until theyâre granted a final permit by the health department. (Video by Andre Malok / The Star-Ledger)Watch video
“We’re making progress. But I’m not going to compromise the safety and the security of this program,” Christie said. “This bill was passed with no type of allowances for that type of safety and security. And Commissioner O’Dowd and I had this dumped in our laps by the last administration at 3 o’clock in the morning when Governor [Jon] Corzine signed it, and we’re not going to permit a program like this to be started unless that the appropriate safeguards are available.”
More than two years ago, Corzine signed New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act on his last day in office, Jan. 18, 2010. For patients to qualify for the program, they must have a qualifying debilitating condition, such as Multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease or terminal cancer, among others.
Poonam Alaigh, not Mary O’Dowd, was actually Christie’s health commissioner originally tasked with implementing the program. Alaigh resigned in March 2011, shortly after the selection of the six medical marijuana centers. Christie nominated O’Dowd as commissioner after Alaigh’s departure.
Christie also criticized legislators for hyping New Jersey’s law as the strictest in the nation.
“They were wrong,” he said. “The people who called it the strictest in the nation were the people who signed it and who sponsored it.”
Christie said his administration has been tasked with tightening up restrictions to ensure safety, he said.
“We do not want to become Colorado or California. We don’t want to have that type of program here,” he said. “I want to have a compassionate program that makes this available for people in New Jersey who have no other alternative and who can find relief from their pain. I do not want this to become a cottage industry for unscrupulous doctors who will write prescriptions no matter what and for folks who might run these facilities who care more about profit than they care about compassionate care for individual citizens who qualify for it.”
Staff writer Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.
by Heather Hadden, The Wall Street Journal
TRENTON—Marijuana for medicinal purposes won’t be available in New Jersey until the end of the year at the earliest, officials predicted to The Wall Street Journal, nearly three years after the state legalized the substance for the severely ill.
New Jersey—one of 16 states plus Washington, D.C., that allow medical marijuana—has taken longer than expected to launch its program because opposition to dispensaries in towns and villages was more vigorous than anticipated, and setting up a highly regulated system with safeguards against theft and fraud has proved challenging, said state Department of Health and Senior Services officials.
The officials said they didn’t want to make the same mistakes as Colorado and California, where recreational users have found ways to buy marijuana through the state system.
“It’s a frustrating program in many ways,” said Mary O’Dowd, commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services. “We’re talking about building a whole new program, from the ground up, for an illegal product.”
Now, after years of slow progress, Ms. O’Dowd said the program is finally picking up steam.
The first dispensary to open is expected to be the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, but it is still awaiting approval from the state. Meanwhile, a dispensary in Egg Harbor was given approval recently at the local level and is also awaiting state approval. Four others are looking for sites and are “moving along,” said John O’Brien Jr., the new director of the state’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana program.
Next month, the state intends to announce a registry of physicians who can prescribe pot to those with a “debilitating medical condition,” including HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis, officials said. About 100 physicians have expressed interest. Officials said the number of potential patients is in the hundreds.
Still, the delays in a program signed into law back in January 2010 have made patients anxious. Joseph Stevens, president of the Greenleaf Compassion Center, said his agency gets up to 30 calls a day from those seeking marijuana to alleviate their symptoms.
Medical marijuana is used by those suffering from chronic illnesses to soothe symptoms pain and loss of appetite. Until marijuana sales are legalized, Marta Portuguez, a 50-year-old Roselle Park resident who suffers from fibromyalgia and gastroparesis, said she is relying for marijuana on a friend who obtains it illegally. “You don’t know what it is to suffer the way we suffer,” Ms. Portuguez said. About the drug still being unavailable to patients, she said: “It’s just wrong.”
Ms. O’Dowd said she “empathizes” with that sentiment but said she doesn’t want to rush the program forward and risk compromising security.
Under the New Jersey law, patients would be allowed two ounces of marijuana a month. The price for a dose hasn’t been set, but patients in the program would pay $200 for an identification card that must be renewed every two years. Medical insurance doesn’t cover the drug.
Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was initially opposed after taking office in 2010 and added restrictions, such as limiting the strength of the marijuana. But Mr. Christie has since said he supports moving forward and appointed Mr. O’Brien, a former New Jersey State Police chief, to lead the program’s implementation.
Mr. O’Brien said the program would account for pot production and distribution down to the tenth of a gram by measuring what is harvested and disposed of—from seeds to stems.
“It has to be well-monitored so it doesn’t become the Wild, Wild West,” said Mr. O’Brien in his first interview since his appointment in November.
Mr. O’Brien, a 26-year State Police veteran who oversaw FBI and state criminal record systems, said he is at peace with his transition from policing to enabling people to buy the illegal substance. He has learned marijuana lingo like “mother plant” and “cuttings” and knows several people personally who will benefit from the program.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating,” he said. “But I genuinely feel as though I’m doing something worthwhile for the people of the state.”
State medical marijuana programs have expanded steadily nationwide since a California referendum passed in 1996. That trend slowed in 2011, when the Obama administration took a harder line on state-sanctioned pot-growing, saying its policy of not going after users didn’t apply to large commercial enterprises distributing the drug. Federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana.
Washington and Rhode Island have since backed off from efforts to allow dispensaries to open there. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice didn’t respond to a request for comment on New Jersey’s program.
Last July, after the federal government’s decree, Mr. Christie said he wanted the program “to happen as soon as possible,” and the six nonprofit dispensaries were instructed to open by January, according to Mr. Stevens. But then the state encountered a new problem—towns that didn’t want the dispensaries. Centers must get local approval for their dispensary and growing facilities, which can be housed separately.
Upper Freehold, a rural township in Monmouth County, rejected the Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center’s attempt to build a pot-growing facility. It passed an ordinance banning township permits to future applicants distributing a federally banned substance, as have at least two other municipalities.
“We’re saying not in our town,” said LoriSue Mount, mayor of Upper Freehold,
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Republican champion of the law, said the centers have had to lobby for local support. “The folks that embrace these facilities will be lauded as forward-thinking heroes,” he said.
The program is operating on a budget of less than $200,000 and has required the coordination of a litany of state bureaucracies, including the health, agriculture and banking departments along with the Attorney General’s office, Ms. O’Dowd said. Ensuring the dispensaries don’t become criminal enterprises has been a focus.
Each employee, officer, director and owner of a center must pass background checks. Once open, the dispensaries would be subject to random monitoring, Mr. O’Brien said. State police will dispose of waste products from the growing process, as with drugs taken off the street.
by Teresa Masteron, NBC10 Philadelphia
Two and a half years after New Jersey made medical marijuana legal, the state finally has a willing home to produce it.
Egg Harbor Township will house the first pot farm and treatment facility in the state beginning this coming fall, reports the Star-Ledger.
Compassionate Care Foundation, a nonprofit group, will be opening a 85,000-square-foot building for growing and dispensing purposed in the Offshore Commercial Park off of Delilah Road in Egg Harbor, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
Though there are six dispensaries authorized by the state, none have yet to open. Groups trying to find a place to start their grow business have been blocked by protesting resident in townships across the state over the past two years.
Egg Harbor Township issued the Compassionate Care Foundation a zoning permit after the group was on the verge of suing the town of Westampton. The foundation put money down on a property in Westampton, only to get its zoning application rejected by the town’s land-use board, reports the Star-Ledger.
If plans in Egg Harbor go forward, Bill Thomas, the CEO of the group Compassionate Care, told the Star-Ledger that they will probably drop the pending lawsuit against Westampton.
“If Egg Harbor Township welcomes us, we have no reason [to sue],” Thomas said.
Mayor Egg Harbor Township, James “Sonny McCullough, told the Star-Ledger that the health department still has to give approval, but he doesn’t see any reason why the facility wouldn’t get the go-ahead.
“Quite frankly, the township is not in the position to oppose it because it meets the criteria that was set by our zoning laws,” McCullough told the newspaper. “I think that is very important.”
“You’re always going to have pushback. I wouldn’t know why people would be opposed,” McCullough said. “There are certainly more powerful narcotic drugs given to people to relieve pain than medical marijuana. But you’re always going to have somebody who is opposed to something.”
by Geoff Mulvill, The Associated Press
More and more states are saying yes to medical marijuana. But local governments are increasingly using their laws to keep dispensaries out.
In California, nearly 200 city and county governments have banned marijuana dispensaries over the past eight years.
And in New Jersey, half of the six groups selected by the state to cultivate and sell pot to patients have been rejected by the towns where they’ve tried to set up shop. Only one has announced zoning approvals so far.
Some medical-marijuana advocates say locking dispensaries out of communities is going to hurt desperately ill patients.
Seventeen states allow sick people to obtain marijuana to treat symptoms such as nausea and pain.