Patient advocates impatient for progress on N.J. medical marijuana centers

Advocates for patients are calling for improvement in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

Three years after the law took effect, only one of the six dispensaries authorized by the legislation is open.

To ease the side effects from the treatments for her cancer, Vanessa Waltz said she has used marijuana illegally.The Princeton resident said she’s upset that new patients have to wait up to seven months to get medical marijuana.

“After my cancer diagnosis, seven months after that, I had already been through months of chemotherapy, radiation, numerous surgeries. I didn’t have time to wait,” she said during a legislative hearing Thursday. “You know who really doesn’t have time to wait seven months? Patients with six months to live.”

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Waltz and other patient advocates want the state to increase efforts to get more dispensaries up and running.

State Health Department officials say the alternative treatment centers have had a difficult time finding host communities, and the state is working to make sure that they’re operated by responsible individuals.

It’s just a matter of the state dragging its feet, contends Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill.

“We keep hearing promises, we’ll get better, we’ll make this right, we’ll amend these things, but it just seems like with every solution, we’re introduced to more problems and more hurdles and more expenses,” said Lassiter, who is HIV positive and a registered medical marijuana patient.

The only center now open is in North Jersey.

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