Compassionate Care Centers of America got permission in August to grow medical marijuana for a facility in Woodbridge. General Counsel for the organization, Yale Galanter, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the process has been an uphill battle, but the facility should be open between Nov. 15 and 25.
Galanter said Woodbridge and its officials have been “phenomenal” throughout the process. “The mayor, John McCormac, has welcomed us with open arms. He’s really cleared the path for us and has really been a visionary with medical marijuana where other municipalities that we had gone to basically kicked us to the curb,” he said.
According to Galanter, there has been a learning curve when it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries and it’s becoming easier to open them. “I think today a lot of these municipalities would have a different reaction to us. We’re gonna be providing 50 jobs to the city of Woodbridge. We’re a non-profit. We’re gonna be making a lot of charitable, local contributions so it’s all good. And John McCormac was bright enough or had enough vision to see that and gave us the green light to move into that town,” he said.
Compassionate Care Centers is a national company, and Galanter said it will be participating in recreational marijuana distribution in Colorado once it becomes legal there Jan. 1. He doesn’t believe the company’s involvement in recreational use will hinder its medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey and other states.
“The federal government has come out with a number of opinions and memorandums. The most recent memorandum from Attorney General Holder’s Office was that medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational dispensaries that are in strict compliance of state law — and I’m paraphrasing that a little bit — will not be touched by the federal government,” Galanter said. “The federal government’s interested in going after marijuana drug traffickers and people who are breaking the law.”
In addition to following the regulations surrounding the dispensaries, Galanter said Compassionate Care Centers has its own compliance program, strict evaluation of employees and a seed to sale review. “Every seed that goes into the ground, we know who planted it, what it was fed and who ultimately buys it,” he explained.
Galanter said Compassionate Care Centers has had a positive relationship with the Christie administration. “We have had nothing but great success and a great working relationship with the Christie administration, the people at the medical marijuana program in the state of New Jersey. One of the directors of the program, John O’Brien, has been absolutely phenomenal. All of his investigators have been phenomenal,” he said. “They’ve actually opened some doors for us that we couldn’t get open and they’ve been nothing but a help to us.”
Some have questioned Compassionate Care Centers’ oversight when Solomon Dwek, an FBI informant who was sent to prison for bank fraud, was named a member of an advisory board. Galanter explained that Compassionate Care Centers runs criminal background checks and the one run on Dwek revealed nothing.
“He had never been arrested, he had never been convicted. Grand jury proceedings are secret and that’s why we didn’t know about it. If I had known about it, he would’ve never become a member of our board,” Galanter said. “And once we were notified of it, it wasn’t a debate with us. He was just terminated.”
Galanter said he’s not concerned that Dwek’s name was temporarily associated with Compassionate Care Centers. “We did everything we could possibly do. We don’t have access to law enforcement records. We’re not law enforcement officers. But we do have access to national crime computers and databases and we check all those things. We also check with government officials. Once the government officials made us aware of the implied problem that this particular board member had, we terminated him immediately,” he said.
Last month, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law that gives children greater access to medical marijuana. Galanter said children won’t be smoking the medical marijuana, but ingesting it.
“It’s an easy medication to take. It’s been shown to help children with cancer and it’s also been shown to help people with seizures,” Galanter explained. “We’ve already made public announcements that the principals of the company that I represent at least in terms of the particular type of medicinal marijuana … will be given to children for free. We’re very active with that. We’re glad the governor was proactive with it. And we’re extremely happy that the governor signed that into law.”
Galanter anticipates the market for medical marijuana will be good. He explained that New Jersey has 9 million people registered and just six dispensaries, compared with Colorado, which has 3 million people registered and 600 dispensaries. “It’s just a matter of getting people educated, getting people signed up, getting the doctors behind what medicinal marijuana can do for people and convincing them and having education programs. And then having them ultimately prescribe it to their patients,” he said.
Galanter was a prominent trial lawyer. He said the principal in his company lost his wife to pancreatic cancer and has devoted his time since to helping cancer patients.
“He’s on a mission to give money away to charity. He’s on a mission to do whatever he can to find some cure or benefits to people who are going through cancer. And the whole idea of medicinal marijuana helping children who are going through cancer and having seizures is really his only purpose in life at this point,” Galanter said.