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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Jonathan Wade of Collingswood leaving Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair after filling a prescription to help with his epilepsy. [Amy Newman/NorthJersey.com]
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Jonathan Wade of Collingswood leaving Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair after filling a prescription to help with his epilepsy.
[Amy Newman/NorthJersey.com]

Greenleaf Compassion Center — so far, the only medical marijuana dispensary in the state of New Jersey — is “hardly inviting,” according to a newspaper reporter who visited the place last week.

The dispensary has black windows that keep anyone from peering inside, and a door that can only be opened with a state-issued computerized swipe card, reports Harvy Lipman at NorthJersey.com. The dispensary is, Lipman wryly notes, “less intimidating than, say, the entrance to Fort Dix.”

“Our patients come up to the door wearing their hats pulled down, with sunglasses on,” said Julio Valentin, Jr., chief operating officer of the nonprofit dispensary. A retired Newark police officer, Valentin oversaw the renovation of a formerly vacant storefront that Greenleaf rented.

Joseph Stevens (left) and Julio Valentin, partners at Greenleaf Compassion medical marijuana dispensary in Montclair, N.J. [Baristanet]
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Joseph Stevens (left) and Julio Valentin, partners at Greenleaf Compassion medical marijuana dispensary in Montclair, N.J.
[Baristanet]

“They have a right to their privacy,” Valentin said. The security measures at Greenleaf go beyond what the state requires.

Patients and visitors must sign in and provide state-issued ID to a security guard at the front desk. Cameras watch the foyer and waiting room; they are monitored by employees of the New Jersey Department of Health.

It’s been three years since New Jersey legalized medical marijuana for seriously ill patients who have their doctors’ authorization, but Greenleaf has only been open for three months, due to bureaucratic foot-dragging by the administration of Governor Chris Christie.

Five other dispensaries have been cleared to open, but they are having a hard time finding communities willing to accept them. Greenleaf, however, had little difficulty being welcomed to Montclair.

“We never encountered any resistance,” Valentin said. He and CEO Joseph Stevens said they made a concerted effort to reach out to political and business leaders in the community.

The state has no control over what dispensaries charge for cannabis, but Stevens said he and the others on the five-member Greenleaf board of directors don’t anticipate making a windfall.

“The way New Jersey’s system is set up, if you want to get in business because you see dollar signs, that’s not happening in New Jersey,” Stevens said. “We’re fighting every day just to keep the center open. At one point we hope to take small salaries, but at this point I don’t see that this will ever be income-generating.”

Statewide, 818 patients and 94 doctors have registered to participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, available to those with serious illnesses such as terminal cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

 

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