New Jersey's first medical marijuana dispensary opened earlier this month. But for patients in South Jersey, it may be legal, but it's not especially convenient.
Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill was one of the principal lobbyists for New Jersey's medical marijuana law, which passed in 2010. The political consultant was also one of the first patients to qualify for the program.
Lassiter, who is HIV positive, smokes weed sparingly to alleviate issues with medication side effects.
"On those mornings where my stomach is rebelling and I need to take a puff of cannabis to take my meds, I still have to function," Lassiter said.
Lassiter trekked up to Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, N.J., about 10 days ago for the first time. And though he was happy with the state's first and only dispensary, he says it wasn't cheap.
Whereas a quarter ounce of marijuana would go for $80 to $150 on the street, Lassiter says, he paid $120 and $140 for two different strains.
Lassiter can deal with the sticker shock; he says state regulations are his primary concern.
"It makes sense that it's at a loftier price," Lassiter said. "But the truth is, on top of this $200 [program enrollment] fee, travelling all the way across the state, and having to pay for it all in cash, it's easy to see how for some patients, for many patients, this is just not a viable option, not yet."
State sales tax is also applied to medical marijuana purchases. It is not collected on traditional prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Another dispensary is set to open near Atlantic City in the spring.
A worker at Greenleaf reached by phone said the nonprofit center is not allowed to discuss pricing.