New Jersey’s lone marijuana dispensary overwhelmed with requests

greenleaf compassion center hbtv hemp beach tv new jerseyPatients registered in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program are waiting weeks — even months — for appointments to obtain the drug from the only dispensary in the state.

The waits are not likely to end soon. The number of patients continues to grow — 645 people are registered, more than twice the amount the dispensary in Montclair anticipated in its first year. Meanwhile, other dispensaries aren’t expected to open for months as they go through a rigorous process to meet state regulations for medical marijuana centers.

“We always wanted to be a small mom-and-pop medical marijuana dispensary,” said Joseph Stevens, president of the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, which opened in December. “Now we’re servicing the whole state.”

Lisa Segal, a 61-year-old South Jersey resident with multiple sclerosis who suffers debilitating muscle spasms, registered in November to legally obtain marijuana. She learned this week she is still months away from getting an appointment to have her prescription filled.

“They told me it’s going to be a really long wait — hundreds of people are ahead of me,” said Segal, who said she will continue to buy marijuana illegally because it’s the only remedy that relieves her pain.

“I’ve been waiting four weeks, and every time I call it’s the same answer: I have to keep waiting,” said Marta Portuguez, 52, of Union County. She said she suffers from a host of chronic illnesses and that marijuana is the only drug that alleviates her pain.

Dr. Anthony Anzalone, a Rutherford physician, said he has called Greenleaf on behalf of several patients and could not get them an appointment.

“It’s taking eight weeks for some of them and we can’t do anything about it,” he said. “They’re the only dispensary in the state and they’re jammed with patients.”

The Montclair center is jammed because it was supposed to serve only North Jersey. Other facilities were supposed to open soon after it did, but they have been delayed finding locations and meeting the regulations. The next opening is slated for this summer in Egg Harbor Township in Atlantic County, but experts question whether the facility will open as planned. Several calls to that center, the Compassionate Care Foundation, were not returned.

The state’s regulations permit the Montclair center to cultivate marijuana only after a patient is registered — and it takes three months to cultivate a plant. The first day of the program, the state signed up 200 patients, Stevens said.

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