New Jersey: Patients Cheer Opening of State's Third Medical Marijuana Dispensary
By Steve Elliott
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has suffered from numerous delays. There were controversies over the state’s vetting process, over the lack of traditional bank financing, over the reluctance of doctors to participate, and over the unwillingness of many local officials to host a dispensary in their town. But the state's third medical marijuana access point, Garden State Dispensary, finally opened on Wednesday.
The facility occupies an old electronics store between shopping centers and a car dealership in Woodbridge, reports Susan K. Livio at The Star-Ledger. Wednesday's grand opening was largely ceremonial; the owners and staff had a "soft opening" on November 22, according to Yale Galanter, the dispensary's lawyer and spokesman.
From the trial launch through 4 p.m. on Wednesday, 430 patients had bought medical marijuana from Garden State Dispensary, according to Galanter. Starting on Thursday, the shop will serve 40 patients a day, he said.
Michael Weisser, Garden State's Florida-based chief operating officer, also runs eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado along with his son, David. He said his goal was to serve all 1,500 of New Jersey's medical marijuana patients, many of whom have waited more than a year for safe access.
Garden State Dispensary was rejected by numerous communities including Carteret, East Brunswick, Edison, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Rahway and South Brunswick, according to Weisser.
Weisser said he spent more than $7 million to buy and renovate the building and property. Now, the hope is that the word finally gets out that the program, which has taken nearly four years to become operational, is ready to serve patients. Only three of six planned dispensaries are open statewide so far.
"With only 1,500 people enrolled in a state with nearly 9 million people, that number is too small," Galanter said. "Either doctors aren't educated or patients don't know it's available. Our message is, if you have glaucoma, Crohn's disease, terminal cancer, appetite problems, you need to talk to your doctor about this. If your doctor kicks you to the curb, find another doctor."
Galanter credited Mayor John McCormac of Woodbridge with welcoming the dispensary. The mayor helped cut a green ribbon in front of the shop on Wednesday.
"Regardless of what anybody thinks of medical marijuana, this is a business decision," Mayor McCormac said. "We love new businesses."
Photo by Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger: Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac (center) cuts a green ribbon to officially open the Garden State Dispensary. With McCormac are: (l to r) David Weisser, president of Garden State Dispensary; Michael Weisser, chief operating officer; Yale Galanter, attorney and spokesman; McCormac, Jim Elekof, a local realtor who is dispensary director and Caroline Ehrlich, head of the Woodbridge Redevelopment Agency.