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Garden State issues first medical marijuana permit

GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 4/23/2012, 3:41 p.m.

Following through on an initiative signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine more than two years ago, state officials on Monday issued the first permit to legally grow marijuana to a northern New Jersey medical facility.

Officials at the New Jersey State Department of Health said they issued a preliminary permit to sell marijuana to the Greenleaf Compassion Center. The nonprofit care center will start selling marijuana to selected patients for medicinal purposes this summer after a second state required permit is issued.

The decision to finally grant the permit comes after months of political wrangling, financial issues and repeated concerns regarding the potential for widespread fraud and abuse voiced by Gov. Chris Christie. Despite strict state guidelines regarding the dispensing of cannabis and patient eligibility, Christie has stymied efforts to implement the measure on several occasions.

"I want to have a compassionate program that makes this available for people in New Jersey," Christie said. However, he added, "I don't not want this to become a cottage industry for unscrupulous doctors who will write prescriptions no matter what."

Once the Greenleaf Center is up and fully operational, state-approved patients would be able to visit the center and purchase up to two ounces of marijuana each month. Marijuana helps decrease pain and discomfort for patients suffering from the side effects of certain types of cancer, HIV/AIDS and other chronic and potentially fatal diseases.

Proponents of legal marijuana laude the state's decision to finally award the permit. However, some detractors of the measure criticized the move. One blogger wrote, "Another place to start out legal and then, in a blink of an eye, illegal prescriptions and street weed."