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Marijuana: New Jersey MMJ program more restrictive (and less potent) than Colorado's

There are more dispensaries in Denver than locations of McDonald's and Starbucks combined, according to Sunday night's 60 Minutes report. But things are very different in New Jersey, the latest state to authorize retail cannabis sales.

Patients in New Jersey are just days away from the opening of that state's first medical marijuana center: Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, a suburb of about 38,000 people that's best known for a few cameos in The Sopranos. The dispensary received its final permit from the state health commission last week, allowing it to begin seeing patients. Only five other medical marijuana dispensaries -- dubbed "alternative treatment centers" -- will be allowed to open in the Garden State.

Greenleaf's opening comes after a nearly two-year battle with officials in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie once said he would block implementation of the law because he wanted to prevent the "de facto legalization" that he says happened in Colorado. And the state's restrictive medical marijuana program reflects that.

A sample of New Jersey MMJ patient cards.
A sample of New Jersey MMJ patient cards.

Home growing is not allowed, and all patients have to get their cannabis from state-licensed operations like Greenleaf. Centers will be allowed to offer only three types of cannabis: low, medium and high strength. But high strength is hardly that, since the state is capping the maximum THC level at only 10 percent. By comparison, flowers in Colorado regularly test above 20 percent THC. The New Jersey law also requires the centers to log what strain a patient buys and whether or not that strain alleviated the patient's symptoms.

As of July 31, there were more than 100,000 medical marijuana patients in the Colorado registry. But right now, New Jersey has just 320 patients. Part of that could be due to the $200 licensing cost -- more than fives times what Colorado patients pay. The number of doctors signing referrals is also much lower. In Colorado, more than 900 doctors have signed medical marijuana recommendations; in New Jersey, the number is 175.

When we reached Greenleaf owner Juan Valentine, he didn't have much time to talk. The center has been slammed with calls over the last few days, he told us, but he promised that Greenleaf would be ready for the onslaught of patients when it finally does open to the public.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Michael Hancock rips Amendment 64, campaign responds (update)" and "Marijuana Majority website boosts Amendment 64 with power of celebrity, social media."


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