Rutherford-based ‘Dr. Marijuana’ shares opinion on medical marijuana program

‘Dr. Marijuana’ opinion on medical marijuana doctors and program

From New Jersey’s third dispensary scheduled to open this month to the introduction of a bill that would allow patients to purchase marijuana from other states and an Assembly committee that voted to move a bill that would create an industrial hemp license, the state’s approach to the topic of cannabis has the potential to change again.

The state’s medical marijuana program has made slow progress since being started in 2010 by former Gov. Jon Corzine, experiencing very little support by Gov. Chris Christie after he took office. Earlier this year, the governor entered a conditional veto of a bill expanding patient access with changes to be made such as dispensing edible forms to minors and allowing children into the program with only doctor’s approval, instead of the existing required approval by a pediatrician and psychiatrist.

Only two dispensaries have opened in the last three years – Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair and Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Township – with a third, Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge, scheduling a December opening. Potential dispensaries have experienced setbacks, with towns like Maple Shade, Upper Freehold and Plumsted rejecting zoning applications.

Rutherford-based Dr. Anthony Anzalone, founder of the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Cards Doctors, expressed confidence in the new facility, believing the size and quality of product distributed there could serve as a model for the state. The product is better, which in turn better services participants, who up until this point had few options, Dr. Anzalone said.

Understanding the medical marijuana program

One of the biggest misconceptions about medical marijuana is that people don’t differentiate between the product sold on the street and what’s available through licensed vendors, said Dr. Anzalone, who doesn’t carry a prescription pad due to his hesitation to prescribe narcotics. Medical cannabis doesn’t contain a high level of THC, the substance that produces the “high” effect, he said.

“Dispensaries will serve the people who are going to need the THC that is needed in certain circumstances to kick off the CBDs. It’s how it genetically reacts to the body and the genetics of the plant. There are a million strains and combinations out there,” Anzalone stated. How effectively it works can take some trial and error, as different strains produce different effects.

CBDs, or cannabidiol, is a substance found in cannabis that doesn’t produce the “high” effect, and has been studied in the treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and certain mental disorders such as bipolar disorder.

Pain management is only one segment of the program, Dr. Anzalone said, recalling how he sees patients daily looking to treat their cancer, glaucoma, seizure conditions, IBS, back surgery recovery and muscle spasticity, migraines and other aliments. He gets about five calls from new applicants, and following the screening and visitation process, about 90 percent are accepted into the program.

“Physicians are doing a fine job but the thing is, then they say ‘Here’s your pain medication.’ I want to get them to eliminate that medication and put them on something more natural, and so that they can function better, to get them off the opioids,” he said. He believes medicinal marijuana has the potential to save billions in healthcare dollars, both for the patients and the industry.


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