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On April 16, 2012, New Jersey issued its first permit to grow medical marijuana legally to Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair. This is their first step toward enacting medical marijuana distribution centers.
Greenleaf can begin to grow their first crop, which can take around three to four months, but they still face another obstacle before the full plan can be put underway. The center needs another permit before it may begin distributing to patients.
New Jersey is one of 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, that has laws involving medical marijuana. An additional 12 states have pending legislation to legalize marijuana. In New Jersey, marijuana is approved for a number of chronic conditions, including seizure disorders, severe pain, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease. Other states identify similar diseases, but vary in their laws for growing and distribution.
The New Jersey law, New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, was signed two years ago by Governor Jon Corzine, but the law has yet to move forward. Greenleaf Compassion Center, with its CEO Joe Stevens, wrote a letter one month ago to the governor accusing him of purposefully delaying distribution unnecessarily.
According to the Star Ledger, Stevens had a verbal promise from John O’Brien, Jr., head of the legalization program, to begin growing under a preliminary permit. The promise was later retracted and, to Stevens’ frustration, halted the implement of distribution centers once more.
Following this, a local doctor and his patient, who have been waiting for the centers to become active, sued the state for causing undue suffering to patients by purposefully dragging its feet to delay the program. Despite skepticism, Governor Chris Christie asserts that he is not against the law. However, the first permit was issued only a week after these events took place with no ‘preliminary permit’ needed.
As of now, the problem lies in individual governments that delay the placement of a distribution center in their town. According to NJ.com, Christie said, ‘If individual municipalities do not want an alternative treatment center in their town, I cannot force them to take one.”
There is also some miscommunication between the distribution centers and the government. According to spokesperson of the New Jersey health department, Donna Leusner, in an article on NJ.com, officials are trying to find a balance between ‘public safety and access for qualified patients.’
Some opponents, such as the state Fraternal Order of Police, believe that the care centers will send the wrong message to youths and become central crime hubs. Supporters are happy to finally see legal rights for natural pain treatment, and many patients eagerly await the substance that could take their pain away.