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Medical marijuana distributor gets first permit in New Jersey

A marijuana plant at the Northwest Patient Resource

A marijuana plant at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle. (Oct. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

New Jersey issued its first permit to a medical marijuana distributor, and expects it to begin dispensing by year end, Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said.

Montclair's nonprofit Greenleaf Compassion Center has satisfied New Jersey's permitting law, O'Dowd told reporters on a conference call today. About 320 patients, with such "debilitating medical conditions" as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS and terminal cancer, have been registered to get the drug or are in the process, O'Dowd said. Greenleaf will grow its own plants in an undisclosed location.

The possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal under U.S. and state law. In October 2009, President Barack Obama's administration told federal prosecutors not to file charges against legitimate dispensaries and their patrons.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., have approved medical marijuana laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research group based in Denver.

New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie had delayed implementation of the marijuana law signed by his predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine. Christie, 50, a former federal prosecutor who took office in January 2010, said he supported compassionate use of the drug, though he had questions about criminal liability for distributors and users. The U.S. Justice Department last year sent a memo to several states reiterating Obama's position and Christie said New Jersey would start licensing distributors.

Patients who smoke the plant's dried leaves or inhale it via nebulizer may find relief from pain, nausea and vomiting. About 175 physicians have registered with the state to authorize the drug's use.

The dispensaries will serve only New Jersey residents who are certified by registered doctors.

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