New Jersey Medical Pot Faces Local Resistance
State officials anticipate rolling out MMJ for terminally ill patients next year. But locals don't want grow-houses in their backyards.
New Jersey officials seem confident that the state's perpetually stalled Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana act will finally sprout in 2012, allowing terminally ill patients safe, legal access to a substance that could give them some relief. But don't hold your breath: “The timetable for when each Alternative Treatment Center will meet all of the state requirements and obtain permits has many variables," NJ Department of Health spokeswoman Donna Leusner tells The Fix. "Chief among them is the municipal approval process that the Alternative Treatment Centers are confronting in the respective localities.” Translation: a whole lot of red tape. “The reality is that implementing a program to grow and dispense a controlled dangerous substance is complex with unique challenges,” concludes Leusner. The hazy statement reflects recent local tensions. Now that the kinks are cleared in the capital, some New Jersey residents, wary of having industrial grow sites in their backyards, are mounting fierce opposition, using township zoning laws to prevent state-sanctioned growers from obtaining building permits, and so preventing them from planting their first seeds. To date, only two of the six total authorized growers have signed leases for growing sites, and neither has yet been given the green light by the health department to commence planting. With the crop taking over four months to be ready to harvest, it seems questionable whether legal pot will be smoked at all in the Garden State next year. Ken Wolski, director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, describes local resistance as "townsfolk with torches and pitchforks chasing them out of town."