UNION, NJ – A medical marijuana facility to be located on Route 22 in Union was unanimously approved by the Planning Board at a recent meeting.

Compassionate Care Research Institute, LLC, doing business as Garden State Dispensary, will be located at 2536 Route 22 East. According to testimony at the Planning Board meeting, Compassionate Care’s Woodbridge site is currently one of only six alternative treatment centers licensed by the State of New Jersey to dispense medical marijuana to patients.

The one-story building, at the intersection of Route 22 East and Monroe Street, was previously a furniture store. In May 2018, the New Jersey Department of Health issued an approval for this site to be used for a medical marijuana dispensary. 

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According to testimony from Aaron Epstein, Executive Vice President of Compassionate Care Research, LLC, the company’s license from the Department of Health allows them to cultivate, process, manufacture and dispense medical cannabis in the State of New Jersey.

Epstein said no cultivation or manufacturing will occur at the Union facility.

Patients who are entitled to medical marijuana include those suffering from cancer, ALS, Crohn’s Disease, migraines, chronic pain, anxiety, and PTSD.  “We have a wide range of patients who are receiving help,” said Epstein.

“Every patient in the program has to have a bona fide relationship with a physician who is registered with the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program,” said Epstein, “which includes multiple visits with that physician and the issuance of a recommendation, similar to the way they would issue of a prescription.”

Epstein said card-carrying medical marijuana patients are first met with security at the front door of their Woodbridge center. The process would be identical for the Union location.  Their medical marijuana card and secondary ID are inspected.  Patients then meet with a counselor or proceed to purchase (if a returning patient).  Every new patient is required to meet with a counselor for 30-45 minutes to review the legality of being a cannabis patient in New Jersey, basic terminology, safe consumption and a condition, symptom and lifestyle analysis.

According to Epstein, Compassionate Care has multiple research projects and agreements underway including research with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and other projects based in Arizona and Michigan.

The organization sought a minor site plan approval with some variances related to a deficiency in parking.  Epstein said employees will park off-site to alleviate any parking issues.  There is adequate lighting on the site and additional lighting will be added.   Epstein said the Union location will comply with all stringent security measures currently in place at the Woodbridge location.

“Things in New Jersey have changed. The state of New Jersey is coming on line with a number of states throughout the country with respect to the understanding of and compassion for those who have debilitating diseases and other health problems,” said Jeff Lehrer of DiFrancesco, Bateman, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum.  “There are six Alterative Treatment Centers in New Jersey. There is a dire need for more. The governor has asked for more.”