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First group given permit to grow medical pot

April 16, 2012 5:34:53 PM PDT
New Jersey's first legal medical marijuana can now be planted after the state Health Department granted a permit Monday to a group to start growing pot for patients.

Under the permit, Montclair-based Greenleaf Compassion Center is allowed to start growing but will need an additional permit to start selling cannabis to patients with qualifying medical conditions.

Still, the announcement means that New Jersey's often-delayed medical marijuana program could be providing the drug to patients within three or four months - the time it takes to grow a crop.

Also Monday, the state posted online the last of 109 physicians who have registered to be able to recommend marijuana to patients. The list includes doctors in every county except for Sussex and Salem.

The Health Department also said a registry for patients is being developed, a necessary step for patients to get the drug legally.

Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine signed a law allowing medical marijuana in January 2010 as one of his last acts before leaving office. Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican who replaced him, had serious misgivings about the law, though he says he supports making pot available for patients it would truly benefit.

Fifteen other states also have laws allowing medical marijuana, though New Jersey's is considered the most stringent.

In New Jersey, patients could only be recommended the drug by doctors with whom they have an ongoing relationship and only certain conditions would qualify. Advocates for medical marijuana say it eases pain and nausea associated with multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other conditions.

Implementation of the law has been slow as the state took more time than expected to develop regulations.

The state selected six nonprofit groups to grow and dispense the drug last year. But those groups have struggled to find communities willing to host them.

So far, just two of the six have announced local zoning approvals.

Greenleaf was the first. It's planning to have sales from a storefront in downtown Montclair.

The group says it has permission to grow marijuana elsewhere but has not publicly disclosed that site.

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Online: NJ registry of physicians who can recommend patients use medical marijuana: https://njmmp.nj.gov/docs/homepage/Physician_Registry.pdf

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