The Egg Harbor dispensary will be the state's second, more than three years after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed a law legalizing marijuana for patients with certain debilitating conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, Crohn disease, and muscular dystrophy.
The Greenleaf Compassion Center was the first, opening a dispensary in Montclair, Essex County, in December.
So far, Greenleaf has served nearly 130 patients out of about 1,000 who have registered.
"We got into this because there were patients in need of this medication," Knowlton said. "I never used marijuana in my life, but I knew it helps certain types of patients and we're passionate about helping them."
Health experts say marijuana is particularly effective in combating spasms and nausea, and stimulating appetites in sick patients.
"I'm excited this long process is done," Knowlton said, referring to three years of preparations and hurdles in the approval process.
In an earlier interview, Bill Thomas, CEO of Compassionate Care Foundation, said he was expecting to plant 2,000 seeds and cultivate enough plants to serve 500 patients. He was expecting that the initial price would be $500 an ounce because the nonprofit incurred debt in setting up the dispensary in the 85,000-square-foot former casino warehouse, not far from Atlantic City.
Thomas was unavailable for comment.
The permit was issued to the dispensary after a review "including several site inspections, background checks of its corporate officers and a review of its security operations and cultivation facility," Leusner said.
After the marijuana is grown, she said, it will be tested in a state laboratory for mold and pesticides before another permit is issued to allow the marijuana to be sold.
She said patients who have already registered with Greenleaf can change to Compassionate Care by calling the state's medicinal marijuana program at 609-292-0424.
Initially, Greenleaf had accepted patients from throughout the state, but in recent months limited its business to North Jersey residents, saying it was overwhelmed by the demand.
Four other dispensaries were preliminarily approved by the Health Department two years ago and some are in various stages of approval, Leusner said. One that is planning to open in Woodbridge is expected to have its facility ready for inspection this summer, she said.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee also turned its attention to the medical marijuana program Thursday when it approved and sent to the full Senate a bill that would make it easier for seriously ill children to have access to the drug.
So far, no minors have been permitted to enroll in the medical marijuana program. The bill would eliminate the need for written confirmation from a pediatrician and a psychiatrist before juveniles could receive the drug.
The measure was sparked by the recent case of a 2-year-old girl with a severe form of epilepsy who was unable to enroll because she was denied certification from a psychiatrist.
Her parents would like to be able to give the drug to her in capsule or edible form, and the bill would also allow edible marijuana to be dispensed.
Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog, "Burlco Buzz," at www.philly.com/BurlcoBuzz.