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Hudson gets one of first medical marijuana centers

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

The first medical marijuana dispensary in North Jersey will be operated in Secaucus by a Cliffside Park-based non-profit organization. Six nonprofits were awarded the initial round of licenses to operate a half-dozen alternative treatment centers, under the strictest regulations enacted so far in the U.S.

They include Foundation Harmony, of Cliffside Park, which will operate a facility in Secaucus — presumably at Meadowlands Hospital.

Each center will grow and sell up to three strains of low-potency pot (less than 10% THC levels) for sale to patients with certain conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, HIV and glaucoma — but only if other forms of treatment have failed.

State lawmakers are considering amendments that would ease some of the restrictions so that patients truly in need don’t suffer unnecessarily.

Costs haven’t been determined. The limit will be two ounces per month.

Foundation Harmony says it will “provide qualified patients with adequate, safe, secure and affordable supply of medicine along while educating patients on medicinal marijuana use.” In addition to the herb, the group says it will provide “emotional support” and “personal develoment services” to patients with debilitating medical conditions.

A timetable for the site openings hasn’t been announced yet, although officials with the state Department of Health and Senior Services. said they likely will be late summer.

“The proof in the pudding is when the patients get safe, legal and adequate access to medical marijuana,” Roseanne Scotti, the New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said. “We are glad that the ATC licenses have been awarded, but we would like more details as to when and how these organizations are going to get medical marijuana to the patients who need it.”

She also expressed concern over the lack of a facility in Atlantic County and said New Jersey should approve home delivery, for those patients who live far from any of the centers, as other states do.

The other sites:

· Montclair (Essex County): Greenleaf Compassion Center;

·Manalapan (Monmouth County): Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, Corp.;

· New Brunswick (Middlesex County): Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation Inc. (CCCAF), Jersey City;

· Bellmawr (Camden County): Compassionate Care Foundation Inc., West Trenton, Southern Region;

· Burlington or Camden County (undetermined): Compassionate Sciences, Inc. ATC, Sea Cliff, NY, Southern Region;

State officials said 21 non-profits submitted 35 applications.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services offers some of the most frequently asked questions, and the answers:

# How do I get approved to use medicinal marijuana?
Your physician must register with DHSS to participate in the program, and must attest that you are undergoing treatment for an active debilitating medical condition, and may benefit from the use of medicinal marijuana to relieve symptoms. This must be a physician who has ongoing responsibility for your care.

# How soon can patients register and obtain medicinal marijuana?
Patients’ physicians must first register with the Medicinal Marijuana Program. Once registered and verified by DHSS staff, physicians will then be able to certify their patients as having qualifying conditions. Physicians will receive access codes to provide to their patients so that their patients can register either on-line or through a paper application.

# What is a bona fide physician relationship?
The physician has:
(a) seen the patient for at least one year OR;
(b) seen the patient four times for the patient’s debilitating condition OR;
(c) assumed responsibility for providing management and care of the patient’s debilitating condition after conducting a comprehensive medical history and physical examination, including a personal review of the patient’s medical record maintained by other treating physicians reflecting the patient’s reaction and response and response to conventional medical therapies.

# What conditions qualify someone to participate?
Patients must be certified by their physicians as having a debilitating medical condition, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Terminal illness also qualifies if the physician determines the patient has less than 12 months to live.

The following conditions qualify if they are resistant to conventional medical therapy: seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; or glaucoma.

The following conditions qualify if severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia, or wasting syndrome results from the condition or its treatment: positive status for AIDS, HIV or cancer.

# My condition is debilitating but it’s not on that list.  What can I do?
After an initial assessment of the program, patients can file a petition with the program once a year.

# It’s too difficult for me to travel. Can someone help me get medicinal marijuana?
Yes. A qualified patient can identify a primary caregiver, who will be registered with the Alternative Treatment Center that provides your medicinal marijuana. The caregiver must undergo a criminal background check.

# How much medicinal marijuana can an approved patient get each month?
A maximum of two ounces in any 30 day period.

# Can I share or give away medicinal marijuana?
No. Only qualifying patients may obtain, possess and use marijuana that has been lawfully obtained through an ATC. You may not share or give away your medicinal marijuana. Any person who obtains, possesses, uses or sells marijuana in any manner that is not authorized under the Compassionate Use Law will be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution.

# Can patients consume medicinal marijuana on-site at the Alternative Treatment Center that supplies their marijuana?
No.

# Can dispensaries provide food products with marijuana in them?
No.

# Can I grow my own medicinal marijuana?
No.

# Is there a fee to register?
Yes.  The registration fee for patients and caregivers is $200, which is valid for two years.  A reduced fee of $20 would be paid by patients who qualify for certain state or federal assistance programs.

# Is medicinal marijuana covered by Medicaid?
Medicinal marijuana is not a covered service under Medicaid.

# What other states have passed medicinal marijuana laws?
New Jersey was the 14th state to enact a medicinal marijuana law. The other states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia has also enacted a law.

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