The Harmony Foundation, a medical marijuana facility on Meadowlands Parkway in Secaucus, recently began harvesting its strains — a crucial step before opening sometime this spring, according to Harmony Foundation spokeswoman Leslie Hoffman. Last July, the state issued Harmony a permit to begin growing its products.
The facility is a dispensary, meaning patients can pick up their prescriptions there.
The dispensary’s progress comes among rapidly changing times for medical marijuana in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy has come out as a strong marijuana advocate, recently expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. The expansion will allow for thousands more people to enroll, and adds five more qualifying conditions, including anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, and chronic visceral pain.
It also reduces the registration fee from $200 to $100. To date, the New Jersey medical marijuana program has around 18,574 patients.
In October, the facility began growing 12 marijuana strains after finally getting its growing system in order. Currently, it is around two weeks into harvesting them, and is now harvesting four days a week.
The strains will soon be sent out for testing at a state laboratory. After testing finishes, the dispensary should get the greenlight to open, Hoffman said.
“We’re just furnishing the dispensary now,” Hoffman said. “We should be opening soon.”
Harmony Foundation would become the first Alternative Treatment Center in Hudson County, and the sixth in New Jersey overall.
Medical marijuana developments
During Gov. Chris Christie’s time in office, Christie limited access to the program, introduced in 2010. Last year, he even penned a letter to Donald Trump arguing that expanding medical marijuana will cause similar issues to the rise in opioid prescriptions over the last few decades. (However, much research suggests marijuana policy changes actually reduce opioid issues.)
But even with Murphy in office, the road to marijuana use will likely hit some potholes.
Murphy is also interested in legalizing recreational marijuana down the line, likely to be opposed by Democrats in the state legislature.
Hoffman, like other medical marijuana proponents, fully backs Murphy’s efforts so far. “I think New Jerseyans will now have access like they deserve to medical marijuana,” she said. “We very much support the direction that the governor is moving in.”
“We very much support the direction that the governor is moving in.” – Leslie Hoffman
Not all officials on board with recreational
In light of the new governor’s stance, some local politicians are setting boundaries on who can grow and sell marijuana in their towns.
Last month, Weehawken amended its zoning laws to ban the commercial sale, use, and distribution of marijuana. The town said it was doing so because of increased inquiries from entrepreneurs who wanted to open recreational – rather than medical — marijuana dispensaries in town. However, these laws do not ban medical marijuana.
In Secaucus, Mayor Michael Gonnelli recently spoke to a media outlet and said that he would not want to see recreational marijuana purchased in Secaucus. He said the town would adopt an ordinance to ban recreational marijuana shops from opening there..
“Let people go to Hoboken or Jersey City if they want to buy it,” Gonnelli said.
These comments could be an effort by Gonnelli to assuage Secaucus’ conservative base, one that might not be as receptive to marijuana of any kind.
But in towns such as Hoboken, officials have been gauging residents’ opinions. Some in Hoboken are worried that New Yorkers will come to that city to acquire it.
Hoffman said in response to Gonnelli: “I don’t know what’s behind his comments, or the reasons behind it.” She said she wouldn’t mind engaging in discussion with the mayor about the issue. “We love being in Secaucus,” Hoffman added.
Harmony Foundation CEO Shaya Brodchandel feels that municipalities against recreational marijuana may be acting too quickly.
“Recreational marijuana in New Jersey is illegal,” Brodchandel said, via email. “Until legislators change the law, I see no reason for municipalities to ‘ban’ something that is already illegal. When the law changes in NJ, then it is appropriate for municipalities to react to such legislation based on its factual content.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org