Murphy Administration Seeking Up To Six New Dispensaries To Expand Access To Medicinal Marijuana

NEW JERSEY: The Murphy Administration today announced it is seeking up to six new applicants to operate medicinal marijuana dispensaries — two each in the northern, central and southern regions of New Jersey.

“We look forward to the opening of six new dispensaries so we can ensure that all qualifying patients who want access to medicinal marijuana can have it,’’ said Governor Phil Murphy. “Due to the steps that Commissioner Elnahal and I have taken since January, we have seen the addition of 10,000 new patients. Accordingly, we have to expand the number of businesses who are growing product and serving patients.”

Screenshot 2018-07-16 09.45.16Currently, more than 26,000 patients, 1,000 caregivers and 700 physicians are participating in the program.

“As we strive to make the program more responsive to the needs of patients, caregivers and Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), we recognize the need to grow the industry and create more options for patients,” said Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, M.D.

A Request for Applications (RFA), which was noticed in today’s New Jersey Register and published on the Department’s website, notes that applicants would have to operate a dispensary and facilities that do cultivating and manufacturing and provide evidence of site control and verification of the approval of the governing body in the municipality where they intend to locate. The business can be either nonprofit or for profit and is also required to submit a business plan including a budget detailing revenues and expenses over a five-year period. The RFA is available here.

Applicants can submit applications for more than one region of the state but must submit a separate application for each region. The fee for applying is $20,000, although $18,000 of that fee will be returned to unsuccessful applicants.

A mandatory pre-application conference is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 9 at the Department of Health headquarters in Trenton. The purpose of the conference is to give potential applicants a chance to have questions answered about the process. The Department will electronically accept questions until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7 from all potential applicants via email at mmpquestions@doh.nj.gov. Applications are due Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. Applicants chosen to proceed in the permitting process will be announced Nov. 1, 2018.

The six currently operating ATCs are not eligible to participate in this application process. Existing ATCs already have the opportunity to add additional sites for cultivating, manufacturing and dispensing. Additional opportunities to apply to build cultivating, manufacturing and dispensing sites will be available in the future.

The Commissioner is also working to expand physician participation in the program. Last week, he conducted two grand rounds lectures with 300 physicians at teaching hospitals to dispel myths and reduce stigma in the medical community. Although more than 100 new doctors have signed up since the expansion began, only 700 of the 28,000 licensed physicians in New Jersey are currently registered to participate in the Department of Health’s Medicinal Marijuana program.

Legal Marijuana In New Jersey: Implications For Justice, Health And The Economy

By Stu Zakim

NEW JERSEY: As New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the State Legislature beginning debate on reforms to our cannabis laws, a lively discussion was held last night in Montclair to debate the impact of legalized cannabis on the local and state economy, healthcare and civil rights.

Organized by BlueWaveNJ, in partnership with New Jersey United for Marijuana and Reform (NJUMR) and UUFaithActionNJ, Legal Marijuana: Implications for Justice, Health and The Economy gave perspective on the history of marijuana prohibition — from  its roots in he Nixon Drug War, to its disproportionate targeting on communities of color,  and the long-lasting impact classifying Cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

Dr. Kamal Kalsi, a doctor who has never touched the plant yet believes strongly in its healing powers, particularly as an alternative to dangerous opiates, discussed his experience as a war veteran witnessing how cannabis helped his fellow soldiers break the pattern of opiate addiction.

Dianna Houenou, ACLU-NJ, presented the state of the damage that law enforcement has had on the minority communities, and how cannabis legalization would bring an end to that practice.  She emphasized the need to expunge the records of those incarcerated for minor cannabis infractions.

Perhaps the most impressive panelist for me was John Henry Barr of the NJ Municipal Prosecutors Association.   Barr and his group were the first NJ law enforcement agency to come out for legalization.  He became active in cannabis law reform after an experience where  he was forced to prosecute a woman for one joint and realizing the incredible negative impact that one small infraction would have on her life.  It’s great to hear that kind of empathy from law enforcement.

Rev. Tim Jones brought the honesty of someone who leads a parish in Newark. He has seen firsthand the destruction that prohibition has had on his parishioners and others in the inner city,  and as a community leader he feels compelled to stand up for drug law reform.

This meeting brought to light the logic and benefits behind pursuing a legislative route to cannabis law reform, versus a ballot initiative.  Not only would NJ take a true leadership role nationally by taking this path, it would lawmakers to include the many regulatory elements and rules that need to be crafted —  packaging, testing, pesticides, labeling and branding — areas that are not addressed by simple voter ballot and can slow down the opening of the marketplace,  as evidenced with the delay and watering down of the Massachusetts bill.