Source: Asbury Park Press
Want to open a medical marijuana dispensary? You’ll need to raise millions of dollars and disclose where the money came from. You’ll need to come clean on your criminal history. You’ll need to let regulators know if you filed for bankruptcy or testified in court or were ever asked to take a polygraph test. And you’ll need patience. Lots of patience.
“It’s a difficult process,” said Andrew Zaleski, operations manager and trustee for Breakwater Treatment & Wellness in Cranbury.
Zaleski worked in the commercial real estate industry until he was laid off in 2009. He decided he’d had enough of corporate America and wanted to set out on his own. He quickly turned to the marijuana industry, which was gaining traction in its quest to become a legal drug.
He approached dozens of towns, but he ran into obstacles. Eventually, he found a 20,000-square-foot building in Cranbury, a landlord who welcomed him, and a town that gave the go-ahead. Administrator Denise Marabello said she and other township officials toured the facility and came away satisfied with its security.
Breakwater is the fifth medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey, and one of the closest to residents in Monmouth and Ocean counties. It sells four strains – with a fifth on the way – to patients suffering from one of a handful of debilitating illnesses.
Breakwater’s opening comes nearly six years after former Gov. Jon Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The law allowed residents to buy up to two ounces of marijuana a month to treat one of nearly a dozen conditions, among them multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cancer, seizures and glaucoma.
New Jersey is one of 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana. Patients must be New Jersey residents and pay $200 to register with the state. They need a recommendation from a physician who also has registered with the state. And they need to buy from one of the dispensaries, called Alternative Treatment Centers.
Harold Cardini, 59, of Barnegat, stopped in…to treat a digestion problem that he had been battling for 20 years. His regimen has changed from a list of drugs that ran three pages long to one drug and marijuana…He said he pays more than $1,100 for a month’s supply. It isn’t covered by health insurance, but Breakwater officials say customers can deduct it on their taxes as a medical expense. “It’s been difficult, it’s been expensive,” Cardini said. “But it works, so you have to do what you have to do.”
Zaleski has been both praised and scorned – two sides of the emotional spectrum that aren’t likely to fade any time soon. He thinks his product could help more people whose illnesses aren’t included on the state’s list, post-traumatic stress disorder among them.
“We’re just a regular business,” Zaleski said. “What we want to do is be treated like a regular business, do the right thing, and have a place to provide the medicine that people need.”