New Jersey Medical Pot Program Advances, But More Delays May Be On Horizon

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New Jersey has made some headway with its medical marijuana program over the past few days after numerous setbacks threatened to derail the entire effort.

Two of the six pot dispensaries that were awarded state licenses reportedly have found viable locations to open up shop, a key step for moving the process along. It’s a particularly positive development given that local zoning boards in two cities recently rejected similar requests from different MMCs, which some observers thought signaled trouble.

But any hopes that dispensaries would begin selling marijuana by the initial goal of January have long since faded. In fact, patients and pot entrepreneurs in New Jersey might have to wait until next summer – or possibly even 2013 – for the launch of the state’s medical marijuana program, according to a report in The Star-Ledger.

The article highlights the many wrinkles that still need to be ironed out. The biggest issue at this point: The state has not yet finalized basic rules for the program. It also hasn’t issued a list of pre-registered doctors that can recommend medical marijuana for patients, and officials are still working on hammering out details of the patient ID process.

As if all that weren’t enough, the state has not started issuing the necessary permits needed to grow marijuana. The owner of one dispensary that received approval for a location in Montclair said he could be up and running four months after receiving a permit. That means an MMC technically couldn’t start selling weed to patients until spring, at the earliest. And that’s if the state issues permits this month, which it is unlikely to do.

Then there’s the big wild card: Several applicants have filed appeals protesting the process used to award dispensary licenses. This could introduce further delays and complications, pushing back the opening of dispensaries by months.