Source: Hudson Reporter
The Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus is set to begin operations in Secaucus, after the state recently issued a permit for it to begin growing the plants. Harmony Foundation is on track to become New Jersey’s sixth Alternative Treatment Center, and the first in Hudson County.
The state adopted the “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” into law in January 2010. That established a registry of qualifying patients and primary caregivers, and issued registry identification cards to patients. It also established “debilitating medical conditions” under which physicians can authorize patients to register for medical marijuana. These include seizure disorder, glaucoma, cachexia, inflammatory bowel disease, terminal cancer, and more recently, PTSD.
With 29 states allowing comprehensive medical marijuana programs, Harmony’s success reflects America’s shifting attitudes towards the herb. “We are at a watershed moment in history,” Harmony spokeswoman Leslie Hoffman says. “It has taken a lot. Many have worked on it for many years.” On people’s opinions on marijuana in general, she added, “the stigma has been melting. I can’t say it has 100 percent melted yet, though.”
Today, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, on par with LSD and heroin. That can stymie federal departments that offer medical assistance to citizens. Harmony singles out the Veterans Health Administration. As America’s largest integrated healthcare system, the VHA provides assistance to nine million enrolled veterans annually.
The efforts to legalize marijuana at the federal level recently gained an ally in New Jersey’s U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. Earlier this month, Booker introduced legislation to deschedule the drug and offer states incentives to legalize it recreationally. Though the legislation has little support so far, Hoffman is carefully hopeful.
States that have legalized pot are projected to bring in $655 million in state taxes in 2017, according to New Frontier Data, which tracks data in the industry. In that figure, $559 million will come solely from cannabis taxes. But that money has not translated to medical marijuana dispensaries. Sixty percent of dispensary owners responding to a 2013 industry survey reported taking in $500,000 or less in annual revenues.
From a personal standpoint, Hoffman would like medical marijuana to fight the opioid crisis. “While marijuana used to be considered a ramp to heavy drug use, it will become an exit ramp off of some of those pain medication drugs,” she said. “It would be great to wean yourself off those very addictive medications. Opioids are prolonging the pain.”
She added, “There’s still a lot to learn about marijuana. Early indications are adding up to be quite significant. Nobody’s ever died from a marijuana overdose.”