Greenleaf Compassion Center, the medical marijuana facility that plans to open in Montclair, will make its home at 395 Bloomfield Ave — the home of the Inner Eye. Greenleaf expects a clientele of one thousand patients, each making three visits a month, which would work out to 36,000 annual transactions. Each patient would receive two ounces of marijuana per month. Greenleaf partner Julio Valentin, of Cafe Eclectic, commented on the irony of the Inner Eye, a smokers supply store, being the chosen location at Monday’s pre-meeting, but it turns out that Drug-Free School Zones throughout the township made the location, across the street from the Wellmont theater and not near any schools, the only viable option.
The three representatives of Greenleaf, who already have the necessary approvals from the township, were at Monday’s pre-meeting to make a courtesy call to the council and explain their procedures of operation. Joseph Stevens, president of Greenleaf, said he saw the benefits of medical marijuana through working as a funeral director, where he talked to families of terminally ill people, and working in radiology, where he spoke directly to patients.
Stevens, accompanied by his two partners, Valentin, a former Newark narcotics police officer, and Greenleaf vice president Jordan Matthews, explained that Greenleaf would cultivate and distribute medical marijuana for seven different
dehabilitating debilitating conditions, and the criteria for obtaining it is very strict as opposed to rules in other states.
“It’s not going to be like California or Colorado, where you can have a headache and go to a doctor and receive a recommendation,” Stevens said. “It’s very restrictive.” He added that New Jersey’s program is the strictest program in the United States. He did not elaborate on which conditions would qualify.
The Greenleaf Compassion Center plans to take on customers who get a recommendation from a state-registered physician. The doctor would recommend the patient, who would then apply to the state, and pay a fee to receive a card permitting him or her to receive marijuana from one designated distribution center, in the same matter that a pharmacy customer might receive over-the counter prescriptions from a single location of a chain pharmacy. Greenleaf is to be one of six designated medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey.
Restrictions apply not only to who can receive medical marijuana but how it is consumed. State laws against marijuana use will apply to any patients who smoke it in or on their way out of the facility or anywhere else outside their homes. The facility itself is to be no more than a waiting room in front and a dispensary in back, with no eating or drinking permitted on the premises. The marijuana itself is not being grown in Montclair, but in a separate town that Stevens did not identify.
“So in terms of function and process,” asked Deputy Mayor Kathryn Weller-Demming, “if a resident of Montclair was facing terminal cancer . . . and was prescribed medical marijuana in New Jersey, would the local police be advised of that?”
“If the police were to show up at their homes,” Matthews said, “they would show the police their cards.”
The transactions at Greenleaf will be far from casual. Valentin explained that the process for confirming patients’ identities will be rigorous, with computer links to the state and with little if any room for error. “Once we run their cards via a bar code,” he told the council, “it’s going to come up through the state, they’ll receive their ID, we’ll see their pictures on our screen as well. So there’s no way they can falsify their records.” Secondary IDs will also be required of patients, and surveillance cameras and closed-circuit TVs will be linked to state and local police for the protection of both the center and its patients.
In cases of patients who are terminally ill – mainly cancer patients – who cannot obtain medical marijuana themselves, caregivers would be authorized to receive it for them and go through a more rigorous screening to obtain a card.
Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, a doctor, raised the issue about the lack of medical staff at the facility, even though two doctors, Montclair State biochemist professor John Siekierka and oncologist James Ursini, are on Greenleaf’s advisory board. “You don’t have any medical people in there, right?” she said.
Greenleaf’s partners likened it to being more like a pharmacy, but Baskerville understood it differently. “You’re not pharmacists, you’re not medical people, so I’m just saying it’s like a warehouse and you guys are dispensing it.” Stevens, Valentin and Matthews conceded that Baskerville’s assessment was fair.
With approvals already issued by the Montclair Planning Board and permits pending form the construction office, the only remaining obstacle is final approval from the state. Valentin said he expects the dispensary to be up and running four months after the state gives them the go-ahead, but so far there has been no indication of when that approval would be forthcoming.