Former state cop to head N.J. medical marijuana program

The selection of a retired State Police lieutenant as the director of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is getting a mixed reaction.

John O’Brien has extensive experience in the computer systems that track criminal histories. And New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd says he has the expertise to get the medical marijuana program up and running with integrity.

Megan Glaser, a policy manager with the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, said it’s disappointing someone with a law enforcement background was selected to run the program.

“It’s just perpetuating the idea these people are criminals and they’re not,” Glaser said. “They deserve to be treated with compassion, and I think a medical professional would have been more appropriate.”

Glaser, however, said it is a sign of progress the program has a director. She said she hopes medical marijuana can be available for qualified patients in New Jersey by sometime next spring.

Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, said security concerns trump patients’ needs.

“New Jersey has the tightest medicinal marijuana program in the nation and, so far, not a single patient has gotten medical marijuana,” Wolski said. “Not a single person has received an ID card despite the law passing two years ago.”

O’Brien officially will begin his new duties on Monday.

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