Former Gov. John S. Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in January 2010, effectively making the state the 14th in the country to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
Yet in the two years that followed, little progress was made regarding efforts to open up dispensaries or growing facilities within the state.
Since the law’s signing, state-approved centers beginning operations have faced a sluggish response from both the state’s health department and a certain unwillingness to accommodate their facilities from N.J. townships.
Only two out of the six centers have found homes thus far, including Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, and more recently, Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Township.
The slow-going development of medical marijuana centers in the state may come as a surprise to many, like us, who viewed the passing of the act as the final step in bringing relief to hundreds of patients across the Garden State.
Yet it seems public perception of the drug has yet to catch up with state legislation, as many municipalities continue to protest against these centers taking root within their borders.
Compassionate Care, for example, was previously denied their requests to develop a facility in Westhampton by a land-use board.
The mayor of Egg Harbor Township has since given permission to set up a growing facility off Delilah Avenue.
Montclair’s Greenleaf Compassion Center was also given little support from the health department in opening their dispensary.
On the one hand, the municipalities seem justified in choosing to keep medical marijuana centers away.
After all, the signing of a state law legalizing medical marijuana does not necessitate the actual presence of medical marijuana in the state — and it seems many still have negative views of the drug.
But towns must also realize that the use of marijuana for medical reasons is extremely beneficial for certain patients suffering from disease, chronic sickness and cancer, and was legalized specifically to bring these benefits to individuals across the state.
Measures should be taken on the state level — including possible tax incentives — to encourage townships to more willingly accommodate these centers, and the state’s health department should play a more active role in promoting their potential benefits.
Political delays should not inhibit the development of N.J. medical marijuana facilities.