The NJ Department of Health (DOH) announced today that final permits were in place for the first medical marijuana dispensary: Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, NJ. These are called “Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs)” under the severely restrictive regulations.

Greenleaf ATC effectively enjoys a monopoly on all of the legal cannabis cultivation and distribution in a state of almost 9 million residents.  One other five ATCs is just getting started in Egg Harbor Township while the other four are not even close to opening. More than a year after gaining the initial contract three of the NJ marijuana ATCs have not even secured a location.

NJ DOH reports that about 190 patients have completed the registration process. The unique restrictions in New Jersey prevents DOH from sending out ID cards directly to the patients. Instead, all of the NJ medical marijuana ID cards will be shipped to Greenleaf Compassion Center for the patients to pick up, in person.

No announcement has been made yet from the management at Greenleaf as to when they actually plan to open their doors. In media appearances this summer Greenleaf reported that they were already growing cannabis at an undisclosed NJ location.

When Greenleaf won one of the six ATC contracts, pointed out that they were very well connected. Former Montclair Mayor Jerry Freed personally went to bat for their application. NJ Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (Deputy Majority Leader for the Democrats) sits on their medical board.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is the most limited in the country.  It is the only state that requires physicians to join a special list to recommend cannabis. So far only 175 doctors are available in the program, most in northern NJ.

NJ ATCs can only provide patients with two ounces of marijuana per month. ATCs can only grow three strains of cannabis at a time; all must have less than 10% THC potency. The only forms of cannabis an ATC can sell patients are: raw plant material, lozenges and a topical cream.

New Jersey’s harsh regulations mean that the vast majority of qualifying residents will likely remain in the underground cannabis market. Without obtaining one of the extremely difficult to obtain ID cards, these seriously ill residents will be left without legal protections if they are caught by police.

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