TRENTON - A half-dozen alternative treatment centers across New Jersey could be legally selling marijuana to patients with certain medical conditions by late summer, state Health Department officials said Monday.
The centers were culled from 35 applications from 21 nonprofit entities, the officials said.
Under proposed state regulations, each treatment center would grow and sell as many as three strains of marijuana.
The pot would be available only to patients with certain conditions, including multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. Patients say it can ease symptoms such as pain and nausea.
Home delivery, as the proposed regulations currently stand, would not be allowed.
Some groups that were considering applying said they did not do so because the proposed rules were too onerous, for instance, limiting the potency of the legal pot - something that none of the 13 other states that have legalized medical marijuana has done.
Most of the winners came from outside the close-knit group of the most public advocates for legalizing medical marijuana.
Devon Graf, the Health Department's director of legal and regulatory compliance, said the successful applicants are a mix of big and small operations.
"It was pleasant to see that there are some little guy, some small-business providers in there," Graf said.
He said the winners have strong financial backing and had secured preliminary approvals for their locations from local zoning boards and town governments, and even training manuals for employees.
The applicants were required to show they had plans for security, quality control and other aspects of the businesses.
Some have strong ties to hospitals. One of the successful applications was Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation, which is partnering with Meadowlands Hospital. The group's facility in New Brunswick was approved.
"We are grateful to Gov. Christie's administration that (Health) Commissioner (Poonam) Alaigh is a visionary who has devised a medical model that will ensure much needed relief to patients suffering serious debilitating conditions in a safe, strict and appropriate manner," said Raj Mukherji, a spokesman for the group.
The group's application showed that it expects to spend $4.5 million a year to operate the facility.
Peter Rosenfeld and his organization, Compassion Collective of Camden County, applied to run a center in Pennsauken, but it was not awarded a license.
"The process, I would characterize as interesting," he said. "They gave us six business days from the announcement to the day it had to be submitted. It was a little hard to figure out which way they were heading."
The successful applicants are in the populous corridor between the New York City and Philadelphia areas.
They are the Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center Corp., in Manalapan; Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation, in New Brunswick; Compassionate Care Foundation Inc., in Bellmawr; Compassionate Sciences Inc., with a facility planned in Burlington or Camden County; Foundation Harmony in Secaucus; and Greenleaf Compassionate Center in Montclair.
Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the regulations would be better if they included a home-delivery option for far-flung patients.
"We're a little concerned there's nothing in Atlantic County," she said.
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat from Linden, has called for lawmakers to nullify the proposed regulations from Christie's administration. Scutari believes the regulations do not meet the intent of the Legislature when it voted 14 months ago to allow medical marijuana.
He said Monday he wanted to negotiate changes to the regulations with Christie's administration.