N.J. medical marijuana growers are ready to expand. Will Phil Murphy let them?

As New Jersey’s first medicinal marijuana provider six years ago, the founder of Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair said he and his partners drained their bank accounts when lenders would not touch them. They tangled with a distrustful administration of then-Gov. Chris Christie before and after they opened.

Now that the state has a governor who is willing to expand the medical marijuana program and legalize recreational cannabis, Greenleaf’s CEO Julio Valentin and other dispensary owners who took the early financial and legal risks say they are ready to step up and serve this growing market.

“I’ve proven myself before and I can do it again,” Valentin said in a recent interview. “Just give me the opportunity to do what I do.”

But despite Gov. Phil Murphy’s support of cannabis, his administration delayed what many expected he would do right away: adopt a medical advisory panel’s recommendation to add broad conditions like chronic pain and anxiety.

Doing so likely would have opened the door to thousands of patients. Murphy says he’s waiting for the results of a 60-day audit of the medicinal program before he discusses his next move.

Murphy officials are concerned New Jersey’s five dispensaries won’t be able to meet the demands of a larger patient base beyond the nearly 16,000 people enrolled in the medical program, according to insiders privy to the conversations.

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