A third medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey? Could be, though it comes nearly four years after the state first enacted medicinal pot.
Compassionate Sciences, a cannabis provider, recently announced work has started on a dispensary in Bellmawr, in South Jersey outside Philadelphia. The dispensary’s spokesman, Andrei Bogolubov, told The Daily Journal of Vineland, N.J., the site could open in about six months and will serve up to 3,000 patients.
New Jersey’s Dispensaries
New Jersey’s only operating dispensary, Greenleaf of Montclair, is located in the northern part of the state, outside New York City. Another dispensary, Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. of Egg Harbor, also in South Jersey, is slated to open this month.
The announcement by Compassionate Care was made after the dispensary received state review of its business plans and zoning and construction approvals from Bellmawr, Bogolubov said.
The new dispensary will be the first of its kind led by a pharmacist, Will Statter, the chairman and executive director.
“We are delighted to begin work on a new part of the state’s health care system in Bellmawr – it’s a great community,” Statter said. “Many patients need access to this program, and we will do all we can to open the doors as soon as possible.”
Medical Marijuana’s Current Standing in New Jersey
New Jersey lawmakers enacted medical marijuana reform in January 2010. Yet it wasn’t until 2012 that Greenleaf started serving the first registered patients. In part because of Gov. Chris Christie’s opposition to portions of the bill, there was a long delay in its implementation, and thousands of potential patients were forced to wait.
So far, less than 200 patients have been able to get pot legally in the state, according to The Daily Journal. Another 800 are registered and awaiting access to their medication.
The state has designated six non-profits to apply for dispensary operations permits. So far only the three have been approved. In addition to state review, they must receive municipal approval before they can open.
Compassionate Sciences’s Goal
Compassionate Sciences plans to renovate a warehouse in an industrial section of Bellmawr. The group received a green light from the planning board in November and has taken out construction permits, according to Mayor Frank Filipek.
“This will be one of the most highly regulated businesses in New Jersey,” Filipek said. “Our community supports those in need and welcomes a health care facility that will help relieve pain and suffering while also creating jobs.”
Bogolubov described Compassionate Sciences as a “quiet medical office type environment” and said the group had full community support during the permit process. One supporter, Jay Lassiter, who lobbied for the state’s medical cannabis law and was one of New Jersey’s first pot patients, said the new dispensary marks a “baby step” toward full access.
“Over the course of the last 3½ years, I’ve learned to appreciate the baby steps,” Lassiter said.