Source: North Jersey.com
Steve Demko walked over to his car to smoke marijuana Friday morning as he waited for the mayor to cut the ribbon at one of Paterson’s newest businesses.
There was a police officer nearby, but Demko said he wasn’t worried. That’s because he is one of 63,000 people in New Jersey who are registered as patients in the state’s medical marijuana program.
Demko was attending Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for Rise Paterson, the seventh medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey, which opens for business on Saturday at a commercial complex on just off Route 20. “We need more of these,” said Demko, 56, of Clifton, who says he currently buys an eighth of an ounce of medical marijuana every week to help him with his chronic pain.
Just before Phil Murphy became governor, New Jersey’s medical marijuana program had 17,000 participants, according to Jeff Brown, the deputy state health department commissioner. Murphy, who favors legalization of recreational marijuana, led an overhaul of the restrictive policies on medical marijuana enacted under Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, changes that more than tripled the enrollment.
Registration fees have been cut in half to $100, and the number of conditions for which marijuana is prescribed expanded to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, chronic pain and opioid use disorder (when used in combination with medication-assisted treatment). New rules also allowed the sale of cannabis-containing vape cartridges.
The new Paterson dispensary is the first of six authorized to apply for a license under the Murphy administration, a doubling of the original six. The medical marijuana program currently is considering applications to add 24 more dispensaries – eight in the north and central regions and seven in the south, with one additional location to be designated later. “This is an area that has been underserved,” Brown said at Friday’s event.
Rise Paterson is growing its marijuana supply at an old industrial building in South Paterson. Residents have raised objections to having the marijuana growing facility in their part of the city. But so far, there hasn’t been any neighborhood opposition to the distribution center, officials said.
Mayor Andre Sayegh said Green Thumb’s decision to put the dispensary in Paterson was a benefit in multiple ways. Sayegh said the center is providing jobs for Paterson residents, revenue for the city, and convenience for local residents who are patients in the medical marijuana program.
Dr. Michael Gentile, whose offices are in Wyckoff, was among the people at the Rise Paterson open house. Gentile said he has 100 patients in the medical marijuana program, up from about 25 who participated before Murphy took office. “This is the best thing to happen in Paterson since the silk mills,” the doctor said. “I love it.”