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New Jersey to Tax Medical Marijuana; First Dispensary May Finally Open

By Thomas H. Clarke November 28, 2012 New Jersey to Tax Medical Marijuana; First Dispensary May Finally Open
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TRENTON, N.J.  — Medical marijuana sales in New Jersey will be taxed, state officials decided Tuesday, potentially removing the final roadblock to launching the state’s medical marijuana program.

New Jersey’s 7 percent sales tax will apply to all medical marijuana sales at dispensaries, state Treasury spokesman Andrew Pratt said late Tuesday.

Pratt said that the Division of Taxation made the decision to be consistent with the intent of lawmakers behind the 2010 law to allow the sale of medical cannabis to patients.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D., Union), a prime sponsor of the medical marijuana law, said last week that the legislators had intended for the marijuana to be taxed.

“When you buy a cold or flu remedy at Walgreens, there’s a tax,” he said. “Years down the line, it could end up bringing a significant amount into the state.”

Medical marijuana advocates are hopeful that now that questions over sales tax on medical marijuana have been resolved, medical marijuana in the Garden State may finally become a reality.

The two year old law has been slow to implement, with a series of delays setting the program back at every turn. Two years after the approval of medical marijuana, no dispensaries are providing cannabis to patients in New Jersey.

The only medical marijuana dispensary so far approved by the state, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, has been stalled in opening due questions over taxes.

Greenleaf Compassion Center was issued a license by the state Department of Health in mid-October but it remains unclear when the dispensary may open. But with the tax issue now resolved, medical marijuana patients may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And for the 300 medical marijuana patients who registered with the state over three months ago and received their state-issued medical marijuana cards late this summer, paying a 7 percent sales tax is a small price to pay to finally have access to their medicine.

“If they’re going to tax it, that’s fine. It’s a move forward, less of a stall,” said Jim Ross, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been approved to receive medical marijuana. “But then the question in my mind is, if there’s something else that might stall it. But my hopes are very positive.”

In addition to GreenLeaf, five other dispensaries are planned in New Jersey, but their locations have yet to be determined.  But for now, patients like Ross would settle for just one to finally open, tax or not.