In N.J., hope and frustration over medical marijuana – Cheryl Shuman

In N.J., hope and frustration over medical marijuana

POSTED: Tuesday, November 27, 2012, 10:10 PM

New Jersey health officials were upbeat on the day they announced that they were creating a long-awaited patient registry allowing seriously ill people to receive medical marijuana.

Within a couple of weeks, they predicted, eligible patients would be able to buy marijuana from the state’s first dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center.

That was more than three months ago.

Patients say they have encountered mostly silence since then as they have waited anxiously for the call saying the nonprofit dispensary in Montclair, Essex County, is open for business.

While medical marijuana became legal in New Jersey in January 2010, the program has been set back by a series of delays, leaving patients on an emotional roller-coaster. The most recent delay was caused by confusion over whether marijuana sales should be taxed. After at least two weeks of discussions among various state officials, the Treasury Department decided Tuesday that the drug will be subject to the state’s 7 percent sales tax.

For many patients, the last 90 days of waiting have been especially trying. They paid their $200 registration fee in August; their photo IDs arrived the next month by FedEx; and then, silence.

When they called the Health Department and Greenleaf, they couldn’t get a clear answer on when the drug would be available, patients said.

State officials told them to await a call from Greenleaf with an appointment date; Greenleaf told them the state was still testing the marijuana plants and it did not know when it could dispense the drug.

Meanwhile, Greenleaf’s website went blank, with visitors told only that it was “Temporarily Down for Maintenance.” Its Facebook page also was stripped of the hundreds of postings and exchanges among patients who had eagerly shared their stories and concerns.

From the News Desk
Also gone were the Facebook updates posted by Greenleaf’s CEO, Joe Stevens.

“The story keeps changing,” said Sandra Hacker, a Holland Township, Hunterdon County, resident. “I’m now having serious doubts. I’m in a quandary, at a loss for words. I suffer every day with multiple sclerosis and I am thoroughly disgusted.”

About a third of the states, though not Pennsylvania, have active or developing medical-marijuana programs. Though all use of the drug is illegal under federal law, the Justice Department says it won’t prosecute in those states when the drug is restricted to the sick. Among the drug’s benefits are that it helps reduce pain and nausea, advocates say.

Besides Greenleaf, five other dispensaries are planned in New Jersey.

So far, 318 patients have enrolled in the state’s program. An additional 138 are still getting their doctors to certify their eligibility or have not yet paid the fee.

“What’s the point of getting the card right now?” said Jim Ross of Pine Hill. The MS patient says he hasn’t registered yet because he doesn’t want to pay the fee until the program is up and running.

“These cards are active right now and are only good for two years. It’s frustrating,” he said. Health officials said patients won’t be credited for lost months.

Last month, Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said she expected Greenleaf to be open by the end of the year. The local permitting process and a state review of the facility that took weeks had just ended.

But then there was a delay when the state required Greenleaf to submit its plants for testing for fungus, pesticides, and potency.

The Christie administration wanted THC, the euphoria-producing ingredient in the drug, to be reduced to 10 percent to prevent abuse.

O’Dowd said in an interview then that the testing should not take “too long.”

The testing took three to four weeks, according to dates provided by Health Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner. She said final clearance was granted earlier this month and officials were “waiting for Greenleaf to advise us of their opening date.”

Greenleaf hasn’t returned calls or e-mails.

A Newark Star-Ledger report two weeks ago said Stevens was still waiting to hear whether marijuana sales would be taxable. It said the Health Department was consulting the Treasury Department.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D., Union), a prime sponsor of the medical marijuana law, said last week that the legislators had intended for the marijuana to be taxed, though the law didn’t mention any tax. For a product to escape a sales tax, he said, “there has to be exemption” noted in the law.

“When you buy a cold or flu remedy at Walgreens, there’s a tax,” he said. “Years down the line, it could end up bringing a significant amount into the state.”

Ross, an electrician who has relapsing bouts of MS, said he was upset that yet another issue had slowed the launch of the program.

“If they’re going to tax it, that’s fine. It’s a move forward, less of a stall,” he said Tuesday after the state agencies had resolved the tax issue. “But then the question in my mind is, if there’s something else that might stall it. But my hopes are very positive.”


Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or Follow her on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog, “Burlco Buzz,” at



About Cheryl Shuman

Tom Cruise, Steven Tyler, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Myers, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Fergie, and Michael Jackson are just a few of the names you'll find scrolling through the client files during the 25 year career of Cheryl Shuman. Known as the "Martha Stewart of Marijuana," Cheryl Shuman announces the formation of Green Asset International Inc.. Shuman brings decades of experience working with media, celebrities, marketing and health care in Beverly Hills. Shuman found her passion in the cannabis movement since 1996 working as an activist and legal cannabis patient. Since using cannabis therapy, she has survived cancer and injuries from two car crashes. Shuman was the founder of Beverly Hills NORML, founding charter member of the NORML Women's Alliance and served on the steering committee for Public Relations and Marketing on an International platform. Cheryl Shuman is a founding member of the NCIA, National Cannabis Industry Association. Cheryl Shuman transformed her non-profit career into a thriving profitable media enterprise. Cheryl was the Executive Director of Celebrity, Media and Public Relations for the KUSH Brand which includes KUSH Magazine, KUSH Conventions and Cheryl Shuman has been interviewed for television programs, newspapers and magazines, including but not limited to: ABC News, CNN, Fox News, NBC News, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Today Show NBC, HBO Entertainment News and more. Her private medical cannabis collective, "The Beverly Hills Cannabis Club" is unlisted and membership is by referral only. Through her personal relationships and connections within Hollywood, Cheryl Shuman has been named as one of the most influential women in the cannabis reform movement by international media. Her position within the cannabis industry creates the first and only company of its kind and at the forefront of entertainment marketing, celebrity endorsements, product placement integration, sponsorships, production and technology. Cheryl Shuman serves as media spokesperson for the hot new vaporizer CANNACig Rapid Fire Marketing (pink sheets: RFMK) and conducts their marketing, public relations, product placement, and consulting services. Cheryl Shuman, Inc. is a business development company and acquisition vehicle. Shuman made news with an historic funding facility dedicated to the cannabis industry with plans to go public by 2014. Cheryl Shuman currently has a hot new reality TV series in development and is represented by the prestigous William Morris Endeavor Agency in Beverly Hills, California. President & C.E.O. Spokesperson for CANNACig by RFMK Beverly Hills Cannabis Club Join Free Using "Cheryl Shuman" as your invitation code on: Social Network Links: LinkedIN: Facebook: Twitter: YouTube: Vimeo:
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