Montclair cannabis dispensary to open next month

Stevens, who worked for S.W. Brown & Son Funeral Home in Nutley for 12 years and is now chief executive officer of Montclair’s medical-marijuana dispensary, the Greenleaf Compassion Center, said that people with terminal illnesses often turn to potent painkillers, such as oxycodone or morphine, to withstand their symptoms as their diseases progress. Such medications often leave patients in medically induced comas as they approach the end of their lives, Stevens said. Alternatively, marijuana provides relief to people on their deathbeds while allowing them to remain conscious, capable of functioning and interacting with their loved ones. “It was unbelievable, the stories I heard,” said Stevens, 50. Grieving relatives would say “the last conversations they probably would’ve never had if it wasn’t for marijuana.” Before the New Jersey Legislature passed its Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act in January 2010, those cherished moments came with the anxiety of acquiring and using an illegal drug. “The patients always felt they were criminals, that they were doing something wrong,” Stevens said. “They had the threat of prosecution, which was horrible. “Now they don’t have to worry,” he said. Stevens said his partners hope to open the Greenleaf Compassion Center at 395 Bloomfield Ave., near Seymour Street, in the first week of August to help patients sign up for the state medical-marijuana program. More than 140 doctors have volunteered to participate and have signed onto a state registry. Those physicians can nominate patients as candidates for the drug. After someone is recommended by a doctor, state officials then need to go through a vetting process, verifying the patient’s residency, association with the nominating physician, and that the person’s disease is one of seven qualifying ailments. After those checks are completed, the patient is issued a number he can use to sign up online with the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to be a medical-marijuana recipient. “We should be at the store registering patients by appointment” by early next month, Stevens said. “Not for sale of the medication, but to help patients get registered with the state,” which charges a $200 fee to people who sign on, according to Stevens. He anticipated that Greenleaf would be distributing marijuana to patients in late August or the first week of September. In April, Greenleaf became the first New Jersey dispensary authorized to grow marijuana. For security reasons, the location of the cultivation facility, a 5,800-square-foot warehouse that has been repurposed for growing pot, must be kept secret, Stevens said. The secure facility has a water-filtration system to ensure that there are no heavy metals in the water the plants are consuming, and all the marijuana is being grown organically, without pesticides, he pointed out. The owners of Greenleaf, a nonprofit, have received state authorization to grow three different strains of marijuana, Stevens explained.

The various types have different proportions of cannabinoids – which reduce pain and control seizures – and THC, the more familiar chemical in marijuana which “has a psychedelic effect,” said the Greenleaf CEO. The dispensary is not locked into growing particular strains and can vary the types they produce depending on the need. “There are hundreds, probably thousands of different types of marijuana out there, and we can see what are patients are getting results with,” Stevens said. State authorities have conducted multiple inspections of Greenleaf’s cultivation facility, and the DHSS lab will be testing the weed “for cannabinoid levels and for the presence of mold, mildew, pests, pesticides and heavy metals,” according to Dawn Thomas, a spokesperson for the department. DHSS will be monitoring “good agricultural practices and other regulatory compliance” through inspections, Thomas stated to The Times. Stevens said Greenleaf can also produce marijuana lozenges and lotions, but before making that investment, the owners want to make sure their patients seek those options. Under rigorous state regulations, which are so highly detailed they even specify that the signage on Greenleaf’s storefront must be in black and white, the nonprofit will not be able to produce any sort of novelty items, such as T-shirts. It is also barred from advertising. “We are running it as a medical facility,” noted Stevens. A medical facility with tight security. Anyone who doesn’t present some sort of identification such as a driver’s license plus the card that will be issued to New Jersey residents eligible for medical marijuana will be turned away at the door by a guard, who will be on duty whenever the dispensary is open, Stevens said. Once inside, a patient will not be allowed to use a cell phone or camera. This week Stevens and Chief Operating Officer Julio Valentin Jr., formerly an owner of Café Eclectic on Bloomfield Avenue, were to install a security system that will include panic buttons and surveillance cameras that will stream live into Montclair Police Headquarters and the state DHSS, Stevens said. He and Valentin have invested $300,000 into the nonprofit – an amount that’s expected to double to bring the operation into full compliance with state rules. Nationwide, marijuana dispensaries are in the precarious position of receiving state approval to do something that remains a violation of federal law. According to Thomas, the spokeswoman for the state DHSS, pharmacists cannot work at Greenleaf or any other medical-marijuana facility, since pot is considered “a Schedule I drug under federal law,” and pharmacists can’t dispense such drugs. On its website, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration points out that Schedule I substances “have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and, therefore, may not be prescribed, administered, or dispensed for medical use.” Stevens said Greenleaf’s operators are waiting to see how many patients their dispensary actually receives to determine how much marijuana they will grow. He expects Greenleaf will serve 300 patients during its first year, based on the numbers that dispensaries in other states have seen during their inaugural year. “We are not going to grow excessive amounts,” Stevens said. “Each patient is allowed two ounces per month. We will only grow enough to fulfill the needs of the patient population. “We are going to act in accordance with the law, and hopefully there are no consequences federally,” he said.

via : North Jersey

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