A third operation now has permission to grow and sell medical marijuana in New Jersey. The Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation is setting up shop in Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County.
The newly approved alternative treatment center is scheduled to open in November but there are mixed opinions about whether the blessing from the Department of Health will actually give patients true access to the medicine.
“Now, three sites have permits, but nobody’s open and nobody’s serving patients,” said Ken Wolski, head of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.
The state’s first dispensary, located in North Jersey, is shut down temporarily to improve its product. Hundreds of patients are registered at that site and waiting to get an appointment.
The second site — set for Egg Harbor — is supposed to open in September.
Early on, pot cultivators struggled to find a welcoming community, but Wolski said the real problem stems from Christie Administration regulations, which, he says, are strangling the program.
“There’s a physician registry, that’s not called for in the law, that’s so unpopular that fewer than 1 percent of physician in the state have even taken part in this program,” he said.
“Some of these regulations come out of nowhere,” Wolski said. “A cap on THC [tetrahydrocannabinol]—no other state has that. A cap on strains that are available for the alternative treatment centers to grow, no other state has that.”
Yale Galanter, spokesman and attorney for Woodbridge Compassionate Care location, said his client has a track record of anticipating — and meeting — demand.
The foundation operates pot shops in Colorado, which allows recreational marijuana sales. Once the Woodbridge site is up and running, Galanter said, it should be able to serve all 1,200 people on New Jersey’s medical marijuana registry.
“The grow operation started within two days of us being issued our grow permit,” Galanter said. “Now it’s just really letting Mother Nature take its course and waiting for the plants to mature.”
“This permit marks another meaningful step in the ongoing progress of the program by allowing a third ATC to begin growing,” said Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, in a written statement. “It will give patients more options to choose from in terms of geographic locations and the number of available strains.”
The township “welcomes new business and employment opportunities,” said John Hagerty, a spokesman for the Woodbridge mayor, in an email.
“The occupancy of the location returns the site to the active property tax base, allowing for the collection of additional property tax revenue to the township,” Hagerty said.
Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, said the patients her agency deals with are optimistic.
Scotti said the three approved sellers worked the right way to win community buy-in for an unfamiliar and controversial concept.
“There’s been a lot of good news in the last week or so. Today there’s a lot of happy people,” Scotti said.
“Patients can choose any ATC regardless of where they live,” according to the state Department of Health. “But patients can only register with one ATC at a time.”
Wolski said he’s casting a “jaundiced eye” on this week’s announcement and will wait and see if more patients really get access to medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, he says, the state is dragging its feet on a related issue.
New Jersey has designated about a dozen medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. Wolski said talks to expand that list are overdue.