Tony NYC suburb welcomes NJ's first pot dispensary
MONTCLAIR, N.J. (AP) - Across New Jersey, most communities approached about hosting one of the state's first legal medical marijuana dispensaries in out-of-the-way industrial zones have just said no, after outpourings of public opposition.
Montclair is a different story.
The cosmopolitan suburb a half-hour train ride from Manhattan has not only allowed Greenleaf Compassion Center - which last week received the state Health Department's first license to begin providing pot to patients - but also let the business set up in the middle of the town's main drag, and with no fuss.
For plenty of people in the way left-of-center town, the situation is a source of both pride and nonchalance.
"Why are the other communities so closed-minded as to not accept something like that?" said Peter Ryby, owner of Montclair Book Store, around the corner and down the block from the not-yet-opened alternative treatment center.
The town of 38,000 is sometimes called "the Upper West Side of New Jersey," referring to the famously upscale and liberal part of Manhattan, but it's also reminiscent of well-heeled bohemian spots such as Boulder, Colo., and Berkeley, Calif. There's an art museum, an international film festival, a Whole Foods, Thai restaurants, racks for commuters' bikes, and the headquarters of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest gay-rights group.
The population - 62 percent white, 27 percent black - is racially integrated and largely well-to-do. The median household income is $140,000.
And the idea of tolerance is part of the town's identity. In a scene in "Mad Men," a TV drama set in the 1960s, characters who went to Montclair for a party were stunned to see black and white revelers together - and marijuana being passed around.
Medical marijuana is a dicey business. In the eyes of the federal government, the medicine is still an illegal drug.
Some patients say marijuana can ease symptoms associated with conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to migraines. It has been used to treat pain, nausea and lack of appetite in cancer and AIDS patients.
Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., have flouted federal law and passed some sort of statute to allow patients access to the drug.
Each state has its own model for how the cannabis can be distributed. Some, like New Jersey - where advocates lament and some officials brag that the laws are the nation's strictest - are still in a startup phase.
So far, nine states - Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington - have dispensaries operating. Some states are still setting up distribution systems, and some use home-grown marijuana or other setups that do not include dispensaries.
Chris Goldstein, a spokesman for both the Philadelphia chapter of the pro-pot group NORML and the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey, has visited dispensaries all over the country. He said most of the storefront operations look more like the one ready to open in Montclair than those proposed in industrial districts of New Jersey.
"The dispensaries are in the higher-end neighborhoods of California towns. There are people who are wealthy and who are poor who need to access medical marijuana," he said. "In New Jersey, it's wherever the dispensary can get their location."
New Jersey is not allowing registered patients to grow their own, and is limiting the potency, amount and variety of pot patients can buy. There's a relatively short list of conditions that qualify patients for the drug, and unlike some more lenient states, chronic pain and anxiety aren't on it.
Only New Jersey residents are eligible. New York, easily reachable by rail, does not allow medical marijuana, though lawmakers have proposed doing so.
Last year, the New Jersey Department of Health selected six nonprofit groups to pursue plans to grow and sell cannabis. The other five have struggled to find towns that will accept them, and none yet has permission to start growing marijuana, let alone sell it.
Groups are planning sites in Egg Harbor Township and Woodbridge. The other three groups have not announced their latest location plans.
Only Greenleaf has had a direct path. In its application, the group said it would meet patients in Montclair and grow its plants in another, undisclosed town. The group won't say where, citing security.
A year ago, Janice Talley, Montclair's director of planning and community development, found that the site on Bloomfield Avenue - next door to an abortion clinic and three buildings down from an adult video store that has pipes and vaporizers displayed for sale - would be a permissible for the new business under zoning laws.
Talley said she fielded complaints from some national anti-marijuana groups. "Nobody from the town called me and complained why we had that facility," she said. "It wasn't a huge issue here."
Behind the counter at Health Love and Soul Juice Bar and Grill a couple doors down from Greenleaf, Jarisi Anderson, said he's all for the new establishment. "It's a beautiful thing," he said.
His co-worker, Queen Townsend, fears the place could be a problem, but she believes she's in the minority. "The people I've met in Montclair - I don't want to stereotype - a lot of people here smoke weed," she said. "They don't have a problem with that."
The guys smoking tobacco down the street at Fume, a cigar shop, said they aren't troubled by legalizing marijuana - medicinal or not. "It's a waste to lock somebody up for a nickel bag or a dime bag," said shop owner Ralph Alberto.
But the dispensary could give the non-Montclair residents who go there to protest another cause.
Last week, Bernadette Grant stood across the street from the dispensary's neighboring abortion clinic with rosary beads in one hand and anti-abortion pamphlets in the other. She said she considers medical marijuana in the same category as abortion.
"This is not pro-life ," she said. "This is pro-death."
Medical Marijuana Vote Set for Today
Dan McGowan, GoLocalProv News Editor
Members of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare today are expected to vote on legislation that would allow medical marijuana compassion centers to open Rhode Island.
The House bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and the Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence). The bills amend “The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.”
The General Assembly first approved legislation to create compassion centers in 2009, but Governor Chafee ordered a temporary halt to the licensing process last year when the federal government suggested it might begin targeting the centers or patients using their services.
But as a result of an agreement reached earlier this year between legislative leaders and the governor, Slater and Perry were given the green light to continue to move compassion centers forward. The bill would clear the way to allow three compassion centers to open while protecting them from being shut down or raided by federal agents.
Chafee Will Sign Bill
Governor Chafee, who faced criticism from those in the medical marijuana community for deferring to the federal government, has indicated he will sign Slater and Perry's legislation into law if it is approved by the General Assembly.
“Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana law invited federal action, I have been working with advocates on a remedy,” Chafee said earlier this year. “I applaud Senator Perry and Representative Slater for their work and I look forward to passage of a bill that will avoid federal intervention and bring needed medicinal relief to those who stand to benefit.”
Bill Regulates Limits on Growing Amount
The legislation will allow the Department of Health to regulate limits on the amount of marijuana that a compassion center may grow and possess, since the magnitude of the marijuana and the resulting income it generates for privately run compassion centers appears to be a key element of concern for federal officials. It also allows registered patients or caregivers who grow up to their allotted maximums, but do not need the entire amount for themselves or their patients, to sell the excess to a compassion center, as long as the limits of the grower and the purchasing center are not exceeded. That provision is designed to address concerns about the illegal sale of excess marijuana.
“This is a good compromise that strengthens the safety of compassion centers," Slater said earlier this year "We just want patients to get some relief, soon. While we believe the existing law is good, this change will make it better by making our centers less of an issue for the federal government. Nobody in Rhode Island would want to see patients get caught up in some federal raid or lose access to their medicine, and if these changes further minimize that issue, they are positive for patients."
The three centers that were already approved by the Department of Health after a public bidding process to be licensed will be able to operate under the new limits, so it is expected the centers will be able to open quickly upon passage and enactment of the legislation.
“Our main concern is getting compassion centers up and running for the many suffering patients who still have no legal way to obtain their prescription medicine,” said Senator Perry. “It’s been three years now since we approved compassion centers. That’s a long time for patients to wait for relief from pain and illness. We already have three legitimate organizations that have been approved and are ready and willing to serve Rhode Island’s patients and the quicker we move on these amendments, the less time Rhode Island’s sick and dying will spend suffering."
Medical marijuana dispensary's application to occupy Montclair storefront nears approval
Published: Tuesday, November 15
Finally! Something worth #OCCUPYING! -UA
MONTCLAIR — All that stands in the way of a medical marijuana dispensary in Montclair from planting its first crop is final approval from the state health department, the dispensary's CEO said today.
The Montclair Zoning Board approved an application from the Greenleaf Compassion Center to occupy a storefront on Bloomfield Avenue about two weeks ago, Greenleaf's Chief Executive Officer Joseph Stevens said. Last night, he and his partners introduced themselves and their business plan to the Township Council.
"We're ready to go from a municipal standpoint. If we were to get a permit tomorrow, we could start right away growing patients medicine,'' Stevens said. Growing marijuana and preparing it for sale would take about four months, he said.
But state officials from the Department of Health and Senior Services have not yet issued a final permit allowing Greenleaf and five other nonprofits to begin cultivating the drug, despite informing them in March they were selected from a pool of 37 applicants.
"The timetable for each Alternative Treatment Center has many variables,'' state health department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said. "Chief among them is the municipal approval processes that the ATCs are confronting in the respective localities. ... The reality is that implementing a program to grow and dispense a controlled dangerous substance is complex with unique challenges."
Montclair is the first of six medical marijuana dispensaries plan to win municipal approval. The Maple Share Zoning Board last month rejected an application from Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center to open a dispensary in town.
The dispensary in Montclair is slated to open on Bloomfield Avenue between Park Avenue and North Fullerton Street. The 1,800-square-foot space was occupied by The Inner Eye, a store that sold rolling papers and tobacco.
The story was first reported in The Montclair Times today.
Another north Jersey community has also given zoning board approval to house the growing operation, Stevens said, declining to identify the north Jersey community for security reasons.
"We receive roughly 10 to 30 phone calls a day from potential patients,'' asking when the drug will be available, Stevens said. Based on public response, Greenleaf expects to serve about 500 to 1,000 patients within the first year — much higher than the 300 or so patients they anticipated when the applied for a permit, he added.
Ok everyone........now is the time to make your voice heard........-UA
US Attorney to Chafee: Medical-pot centers violate US law
fri 4/29/11 projo.com
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha has told Governor Chafee that the state law establishing three medical-marijuana centers violates federal law and could lead to civil and criminal prosecution.
The three-page letter was hand-delivered to the governor's office Friday afternoon.
"The Act, the registration scheme it purports to authorize, and the anticipated operation of the three centers appear to permit large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution," Neronha wrote.
"Accordingly, the Department of Justice could consider civil and criminal legal remedies against those individuals and entities who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries, as such actions are in violation of federal law."
For one thing, the letter said, under federal law it is illegal to manufacture, distribute or possess with intent to distribute marijuana, or use property to manufacture, store or distribute the drugs.