The New Jersey Department of Health announced yesterday that it has issued its first permit licensing a medical marijuana dispensary to operate, nearly two years after medical marijuana became legal in the Garden State.
“This permit marks a significant step forward in the implementation of New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program and allows Greenleaf Compassion Center to begin dispensing medicinal marijuana to qualified patients,” Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said in a statement. “The Department is working with all [alternative treatment centers] to ensure the program serves patients safely and securely.”
Greenleaf Compassion Center was given the green light following a final inspection of its facility in Montclair, N.J. The nonprofit has been working to open the dispensary for over a year –CEO Joe Stevens told Metro in Nov. of 2011 that the center first had to be selected by the state as an operator, then needed municipal zoning approval followed by a second and final state permit.
The process was further complicated when the state tightened its marijuana legislation last fall, prompting a flurry of new forms the six state-licensed dispensaries in the running were required to fill out before opening.
But after recently receiving an occupancy approval from Montclair officials, Greenleaf was given the final state go-ahead yesterday and could be up and running soon. “We’ve been letting patients know we’ll call as soon as we receive a final permit from DHSS,” Stevens said last year. “We could be up and running within four months.”
Patients – who were allowed to start registering for the state Medicinal Marijuana Program in early August – will this week receive identification cards and will be contacted by Greenleaf to schedule appointments in the order in which they signed up. More than 175 physicians and about 320 patients have signed up or are in the process of doing so.
“This is a new product. Patients may want to make a limited purchase initially until they know which of the three available varieties best meets their needs,” O’Dowd said. Residents who have questions or who are interested in viewing a list physicians who are registered with the program are instructed to check out the health department’s medical marijuana website.
The other five treatment centers selected by the state in March of 2011 are still in various stages of the opening process.