DUMONT, N.J. — Lingering in the agony of Crohn's disease, Todd Provenzano was out of options.
The chef and owner of Dumont's Chicken Todd's had multiple bad experiences with prescription drugs, and swore he'd never take them again.
But then, someone suggested something he'd never tried nor considered to subside his constant state of pain: medical marijuana.
It worked "like a charm," he said, and recently launched the Medical Marijuana Patients Club of New Jersey to raise awareness toward the drug's benefits.
"I grew up in a household where drugs were forbidden," said Provenzano of Hackensack.
"I had a brother who was a police officer in Fort Lee — I wasn't going to get away with anything."
Now, he can.
New Jersey currently has a limited medical marijuana program, though the system is handicapped by restrictions implemented on the state level.
Provenzano started Medical Marijuana Patients Club of New Jersey in hopes to raise awareness and unify the voices who support the movement.
According to Provenzano, New Jersey's current medical marijuana program has numerous issues. State-purchased medical marijuana can be nearly twice the cost of black market prices and state regulations prohibit the drug from having high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the key ingredient for pain relief
Other states such as Colorado, Washington and Michigan have implemented medical marijuana programs that make New Jersey's look outdated in comparison.
"We're in the stone age," Provenzano said. "We're so far behind what everyone else is doing."
Medical marijuana can be consumed in a variety of ways, though what's allowed in New Jersey is only smokable cigarettes that create puffs of smoke and leave lingering smells in houses and neighborhoods.
Other states, however, allow edibles like lollipops and gummy bears or THC oil pens that use a vapor delivery system instead of smoke.
"You're giving sick people something to smoke. It doesn't make any sense."
After visiting other states, Provenzano capitalized on his experience making hot sauce at his restaurant Chicken Todd's, and began making edible THC oils and other products for patients to use.
New Jersey's current laws around marijuana prevent Provenzano from selling in his home state, but he continues his business in Colorado and California.
His goal with the club is to implement a law in New Jersey similar to Colorado.
As for anyone who has reservations about allowing marijuana to be purchased legally, he says the alternatives are worse.
"[Marijuana is] really helping people, it's keeping people from taking what I would call the bad drugs, the bad pain medication," Provenzano said.
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