By David Cruz
State Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd was the center of attention today as the much anticipated medical marijuana registry went live. About 150 doctors around the state who have registered for the program have had access to the website for a couple of months now in order to familiarize themselves with the process. Today is the first day potential patients were able to log on.
“The first thing a patient needs to do if they want to participate in the program is to identify a physician and develop an ongoing relationship with them,” she explained. “The next step is that a physician will register the patient with the system and that system will then generate an ID number for the patient. The patient then goes on line, registers themselves, sends us the information we need in order to create an ID card for them.”
The patient will then take the card to a dispensary, or Alternative Care Center as they’re known, like the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, which is one of only two such centers that have set up shop in the state so far. CEO Joseph Stevens and COO Julio Valentin, Jr. have had to jump through some hoops finding a spot and then getting local support to get started.
“It was very frustrating along the way,” explained Stevens. “There were a few hiccups, but we worked through them and the administration is working closely with us to make sure we’re compliant and that it’s a safe and secure program. They’re doing that and we’re very pleased right now.”
Valentin said he was eager to get started. “I think the state, and the people in the state of New Jersey will also see, that we’ve dedicated 5 years to this and we’re not giving up,” he said. “We’re here for the people of New Jersey.”
One person who won’t be able to participate in the program is John Ray Wilson. Wilson became a cause celebre for medical marijuana advocates back in January as he prepared to go to jail for having six marijuana plants in his backyard. Wilson, who has Multiple Sclerosis, said he used the drug to treat his symptoms. He’s out now, but the terms of his release include three-times-a-week drug testing, and a ban on talking to the media about marijuana. He says his symptoms have been mostly under control of late.
By midday only one person had signed up for the program. We’re not sure who THAT person is but it’s not John Ray Wilson.
O’Dowd didn’t want to comment on Wilson specifically. “If an individual has any specific legal situations, they’re going to have to consult with an attorney,” she said.
O’Dowd says that the program will get some fine-tuning as they go forward but the bottom line, she says, is to make it as simple as possible for those who need the help, to get the help.