Confusion Leaves Many in a Haze Over NJ's Legal Marijuana Rules

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The deadline for groups that want to grow and sell marijuana legally in New Jersey is Monday, but confusion over the rules may mean few applicants actually apply.

Prospective licensees and advocates say the proposed regulations are complicated, and in some cases, too restrictive to be viable. Even though the rules aren't finalized, the state said the deadline is firm. At the same time, the legislature is considering forcing a rewrite of the proposed regulations.

With all the uncertainty, some groups that want to provide legalized pot are reluctant to pay the $20,000 application fee. If applicants are rejected they will be refunded the fee.

One group has gone to court to try to get the deadline pushed back.

The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that lobbies for drug law reforms said the application is a cumbersome and opaque process.

“You don’t have this for a pharmacy or a hospital that are dispensing much more powerful and potent drugs,” said Roseanne Scotti, a regional director for the organization. “We don’t see why you have to have it for an alterative treatment center.”

Scotti said other states do a much better job of encouraging participation in medical marijuana programs and making the application fees more reasonable. Arizona, for example, charges a $5,000 fee for applying. She said if the cost to open a dispensary is too high, patients will “just get medicine from the illegal market ... and that’s a tragedy. We’ve been fighting for people to get safe and legal access.”

The successful applicants will be announced on Monday, March 21.

Reporting by Stephen Nessen