Harmony officially opened for business on June 18. It’s the first such operation in Hudson County, and the sixth Alternative Treatment Center in New Jersey.
People with certain ailments – such as anxiety, muscular dystrophy, or terminal cancer – can come to the dispensary seeking a non-traditional treatment. But first you’ll need a card from the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program. To apply for that, a registered MMP physician must assess potential patients and certify their conditions. Those interested can begin the application process at https://njmmp.nj.gov/njmmp/.
“It’s not a place to come window shop,” said Harmony spokeswoman Leslie Hoffman during a tour of the facility last week. “Nobody who doesn’t have a card can go through those doors.”
For those who do, they enter a well-lighted, comfortable waiting lounge with a pinch of that Mary Jane smell.
They check in with their card and ID so management knows they’re in the state program, and if they still have an allotment for the amount of weed they can buy. While waiting, patients can look at the different strain options on a menu screen in the lounge.
Checked-in patients can use available iPads to choose from the nine strains offered.
They can also select the quantity – one-eighth and one-quarter ounce currently – and how they want it. Do they want the strain pre-rolled into a joint? Or in pre-ground form? Maybe they want the product in whole flower form, to grind themselves? (Most dispensaries don’t offer a pre-ground option, leaving Harmony in rare company)
After ordering, a salesperson then sends the patient’s order to the actual dispensary next to the lounge. Pricing for each strain is flat for both quantities, but Hoffman did not want to disclose numbers because the state does not allow them to publish prices.
The patient gives cash or a debit card for the product to a consultant who places it in a special, rice-paper package and sends them on their way. The dispensary also packages the strains in glass jars for patients to see up close.
“We try to get patients in and out as quickly as they want to go,” Hoffman said. They can receive a consultation about different strains, storage, and other questions (such as whether they can ingest the substance).
Marijuana became legal for medical use in New Jersey in 2010.
Keeping the product pure
The tour didn’t include a visit to the growing space. Only people who have undergone a decontamination process are allowed in. Workers must undergo the process before entering, which includes stripping down to their underclothes and going through an air shower to remove dust and other particles.
“Medicine has to be pure, consistent, and effective,” Hoffman said. “We are bio-secure, which means all biological hazards are not allowed in.”
So where do the names for the dispensary’s strains come from, like “Green Crack” and “Boss Hogg”?
As it turns out, those are official names. “We have not yet started to name our own strains,” Hoffman said. They’re named by the individuals who crossed different “parent” strains to create hybrids.
It’s analogous to someone who discovers a previously unmanned plant, or animal, and gains naming rights.
“We try to get patients in and out as quickly as they want to go.” – Leslie Hoffman
Since the opening, patients have reacted “very positively,” Hoffman said. Before Harmony opened, residents had to travel to other ATC’s for their medical marijuana prescriptions, sometimes as far as South Jersey.
The dispensary does not require appointments for patients and is working on a delivery service. It's also open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Even in Secaucus’ generally conservative culture, Hoffman said that Harmony hasn’t seen any local pushback. For those who are suspicious about medical marijuana, Hoffman argues that “they need to keep their thumb on the science.”
“People are okay with this being medicine now,” added Kyleigh Carney, a member of Harmony’s dispensary team. She previously worked at the Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge. “You get people in these doors that have never smoked before, but this is what their doctor’s telling them to do. They’ve tried these medicines that are hurting them.”
The dispensary helps new patients become comfortable with using the product.
“They’re eager we’re here,” said Walter Nolasco, another Harmony team member. “They’re happy we’re here to finally supply and give them access to meds they haven’t had access to.”
Carney recalled a previous instance at her old dispensary that showed the shifting tides. She said that they had a patient who never smiled and wasn’t sure about joining the marijuana program. She did so at her son’s behest.
“I saw her here months later, with a smile on her face when she walked in the door, a completely different person,” she said. “That makes it completely worth it.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org