New leader for medical marijuana program

TRENTON  – The state’s medical marijuana program – which has had a rocky road to getting under way – has a new leader at the helm.

The Department of Health and Senior Services today appointed John H. O’Brien Jr., a 26-year veteran and retired lieutenant of the New Jersey State Police, as director of New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medicinal Marijuana program.

O’Brien, 51, of Manchester Township, most recently served as Assistant Bureau Chief for the State Bureau of Identification, where he managed a staff of 120 and nine units which conduct criminal background checks and licensing investigations. He is an expert in the use of FBI and New Jersey criminal history record systems.

The Christie administration approved the program this summer, generally considered one of the most restrictive in the nation, after a long period of weighing its legal pros and cons.

But the program has stumbled to get up and running, featuring local opposition in some of the towns that would be host to the program facilities.

Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said in a release that O’Brien “has the expertise to get this program up and running with integrity. No Alternative Treatment Center will be issued a permit to grow or dispense medicinal marijuana until each applicant, its officers, board members and employees have been thoroughly vetted” and have met all regulatory requirements.

“I am appreciative of the confidence and support shown to me by Commissioner O’Dowd,” O’Brien said in a release. “I believe the Administration and the Legislature have developed a firm foundation on which to build this program. I look forward to the opportunity to successfully bring the program to full implementation.”

O’Brien will join the Department on Monday and will report to Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito.

Previous coverage:

Christie green-lights medical marijuana program

Medical marijuana advocates say program restrictions impede economy

  New leader for medical marijuana program