It’s been almost 3 years since new Jersey became one of the 16 states to legalize medical marijuana, but it looks like it won’t be until the end of the year, at the earliest, before it’s available to patients.
The state has taken longer than expected to launch its program because opposition to dispensaries in towns and villages was more vigorous than anticipated and setting up a highly-regulated system with safeguards against theft and fraud proved challenging, the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services officials said.
The officials said they did not want to make the same mistakes as Colorado and California, where recreational users found ways to buy marijuana through the state system.
“It’s a frustrating program in many ways,” according to Mary O’Dowd, commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services. “We’re talking about building a whole new program, from the ground up, for an illegal product.”
The first dispensary to open is expected to be the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, but it is still awaiting approval from the state. Meanwhile, a dispensary in Egg Harbor was given approval recently at the local level and also is awaiting state approval. Four others are looking for sites and are “moving along,” according to John O’Brien Jr., the new director of the state’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana program.