In the three weeks since the state put out a request for applications for the six new medical marijuana dispensaries it will be licensing, the Department of Health said it received approximately 530 questions about the application process.
The department attempted to answer those queries at a mandatory meeting for all Alternative Treatment Center applicants Thursday morning in Trenton.
Applicant eligibility, municipal approval and financial requirements were among the hot topics at the session.
Nearly anyone is eligible to participate, except those who currently hold a medicinal permit issued by the state Department of Health, individuals with a 25 percent financial stake in an already-issued permit, or those currently managing a treatment center.
This is the first of multiple requests for applications, according to Jeff Brown, the health department’s assistant commissioner, medicinal marijuana. Additional calls will be made once new regulations reflective of public comment are adopted, he said.
For proof of municipal approval, the health department is looking for some kind of documentation that says the municipal government where an applicant is seeking to open at ATC is in favor of such a move and won’t impede its progress.
“It’s a requirement in our rules, borne out from experience in the first round,” Brown said. “We want to be somewhat inclusive for the ability for entities to meet this requirement. We want to see that the municipal government is OK with an ATC operating in that jurisdiction.”
Applicants are encouraged to submit a map of the area with their document of zoning approval.
“We just want to see that their applicant has done their due diligence,” Brown said.
For financial requirements, Brown said that he could not provide any specific figures for applicants to work off of.
“The applicant should provide sufficient financial information to allow the state to assess the financial strength and creditworthiness of the applicant and its ability to undertake the operations required of ATCs and successfully provide a supply of medical marijuana to qualified patients,” he said. “We want to make sure that applicants have the necessary financing to undertake this operation.”
Brown highlighted that the purpose of the ATCs, more than anything, is for patient access and affordability. He noted market diversification and the introduction of products not yet available for purchase in New Jersey as things that will be considered; and that value, affordability and community involvement will be evaluated as well.
“First and foremost, [the department is] looking for ability to meet overall health and safety needs of qualified patients and ensure safety of public,” he said.
And though documented involvement of an acute care hospital in an ATC is delineated in the application rules, Brown said the department is waiving the requirement.
“It was found to be somewhat impracticable, so that is waived for applicants in this round, and pending public comment, up for repeal in the proposed rules,” he said.
The written answers to the approximately 530 questions will be posted on the application website Aug. 15.
“[The number of questions] shows the enthusiasm and the interest from folks who want to get into this industry which is fantastic,” Brown said.
The ATC application process will close at 5 p.m. Aug. 30, at which time the online form will turn off and the office will no longer accept any paper applications.