Susan Sturner suffers from fibromyalgia, Hepatitis C and a host of other ailments. To ease her pain, her doctor recently prescribed her with one thing that will help: medical marijuana.
Sturner drove to Montclair from Lawrence Township for her appointment at Greenleaf Compassion Center on Dec. 20. She later walked out with her first purchase of medical marijuana - with no fear of being arrested.
“I feel like I’m in a dream,” said Sturner. “I’ve waited so long for this and so many people with the Coalition with Medical Marijuana of New Jersey have worked for years ... to get here.”
Sturner is one of the few hundreds of medical marijuana patients going to the newly opened dispensary, which opened on Dec. 6 in Montclair's busy business center.
Last week, Sturner said she spent $260 on a half ounce of marijuana. In addition, she bought a vaporizer, which is very similar in the shape and style of a smokeless cigarette. Sturner said the odorless vaporizer will allow here to smoke her medical marijuana discretely and nearly anywhere.
While her ailments have persisted for years, which include arthritis and glaucoma, Sturner said she has never purchased marijuana illegally on the street. And while more potent marijuana could be purchased illegally for less, Sturner said that legally purchasing it will help bring more social acceptance to the issue.
There is a state registration fee of $200 for the program which lasts two years. Patients on Medicaid and low-income programs can register for $20, and get additional discounts when purchasing medical marijuana.
Altogether, Sturner said the cost of the program is not cheap. She estimated that she had spent nearly $1,000 in doctor visits and fees before she stepped out of Greenleaf with her first purchase.
Sturner was critical of the state’s handling of the medical marijuana program so far, saying it has been less than smooth. Adding to the headaches, Department of Health sent out an email on Dec. 18 to more than 450 medical marijuana patients that unintentionally disclosed their email address and some of their names, according to NJ.com.
“It’s a very stupid mistake,” said Sturner, who’s email address was included in state's email. “They are dealing with very sensitive information. ... And it’s not just an email address, it’s your contact information.”
Regardless of the mishaps and delays, Sturner said she was optimistic that things would get better for the program in the future.
“This really is just a starting point,” said Sturner. “There are so many patients in New Jersey who are really really sick who could use this medication.