MONTCLAIR, NJ — The only operating medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey, Montclair’s Green Leaf Compassion Center, announced Friday that they are closing for about two weeks due to a shortage of medical quality marijuana.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has been heavily criticized for being overly restrictive, and has gotten off to a painfully slow start. Three years after approving dispensaries in the state, Greenleaf Compassion Center remains the only open dispensary, and is only serving limited patients in the northern part of the state.
Now, because of New Jersey’s restrictive medical marijuana regulations, among which require dispensaries to grown their own cannabis and can carry only three strains at a time, the state’s only open dispensary must close for about two weeks to replenish their supply.
The closure comes as a result of a recent crop being deemed “inferior” by dispensary operators, who say they lost about ten percent of their limited supply of marijuana this month.
“We need another two weeks, perhaps,” says Greenleaf Chief Operating Officer Julio Valentin. “We are trying to build our supply up so we never have to close again. We are living harvest to harvest.”
“We continue to be focused on doing everything we can to service as many patients as possible while working in a highly regulated industry,” added Joe Stevens, Valentin’s partner. “Patients remain Greenleaf’s number one priority.”
Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, says that while the closure is unfortunate, it is not the dispensary’s fault, placing the blame on the program itself for being too restrictive.
“Two weeks might literally be a lifetime for some of the seriously ill patients and it will feel like a life time for many others who are suffering,” Scotti said. “New Jersey needs more Alternative Treatment Centers and if the ones that have been given licenses can’t get up and running the state should give the licenses to someone else or reopen the application process and let other groups open centers.”
The law authorizing six medical marijuana dispensaries to open in the state took effect in January 2010, with the state health department selecting the six dispensaries over two years ago. Since then, only Greenleaf has opened its doors, finally being able to do so in December 2012 after clearing all the hurdles of the application process, including finding a township that would allow them to open.
Eventually six dispensaries, or “alternative treatment centers” as they are called in the New Jersey medical marijuana law, will serve registered patients, but Greenleaf is the first to complete the application and permitting process and secure approvals from local officials.
New Jersey’s second dispensary, Compassionate Care Foundation, is expected to begin serving patients in the fall in Egg Harbor, having finally received authorization from the state to begin growing marijuana.
Four other dispensaries have yet to find suitable locations for growing and distributing medical marijuana, as many New Jersey towns have banned dispensaries from opening within their communities.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended the medical marijuana program, saying the demand for medical marijuana is not significant.