No monitor for medical marijuana in New Jersey

Richard Caporusso (left) with his attorney, William H. Buckman. He is suing New Jersey over delays in medical marijuana.
Richard Caporusso (left) with his attorney, William H. Buckman. He is suing New Jersey over delays in medical marijuana. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 26, 2013

TRENTON - A Superior Court judge refused a request from two patients to appoint a monitor to supervise the state's stalled medical marijuana program Thursday and instead sent their case to the Appellate Division.

Richard Caporusso of Medford Lakes and Caroline Glock, now deceased, of Toms River sued the state Department of Health last year, saying they were denied medication because the department took nearly three years to get the program under way. Their lawyers sought a monitor and court orders compelling corrective action.

Instead, Judge Mary C. Jacobson ordered the case transferred to an appeals panel, which she said normally hears legal challenges stemming from the "actions and inactions" of administrative agencies. She denied the state's motion to dismiss the case and questioned why the department had missed several deadlines.

Caporusso said he was pleased the case was continuing. "But as each calendar day passes by, more and more patients suffer because there is only one" dispensary in the state, he said. Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair opened Dec. 6.

Six nonprofits obtained preliminary approval to open dispensaries two years ago, but five ran into difficulty getting zoning approvals or other problems.

Anne M. Davis, Caporusso's attorney, said the law required the Health Department to grant or deny final approval to these nonprofits within 60 days. If they could not meet the deadline, other nonprofits should have been given a chance to open a dispensary, she said.

Meanwhile, Greenleaf has "a monopoly and is charging double the street value" for an ounce of marijuana, she contended. Caporusso said he paid nearly $500 for 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana at Greenleaf last week.

Michael J. Kennedy, a deputy attorney general who represented the Health Department, argued that the law affords the agency discretion on how to manage the program. It has been operating in "good faith" and the deadlines are flexible, he said.

The department has said that creating a program "from the ground up" was "a daunting task involving medical, legal, and personnel issues."


Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog, "Burlco Buzz," at www.philly.com/BurlcoBuzz.

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