O'Brien, 51, of Manchester, 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. The 26-year State Police veteran is described as an expert in the use of FBI and New Jersey criminal history record systems.
State Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd said O'Brien was selected “to bring leadership, oversight and integrity necessary for the program’s continued implementation and security.”
The commissioner said 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. “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."
Under O’Brien, the State Police created and implemented a program that provided immediate federal and state criminal history record checks of firearms purchasers. O‘Brien also created a secure and consumer-friendly program that allows a private vendor to provide fingerprint capture services for applicants for jobs as teachers, child care workers and nurses aides, eliminating the burden on police departments.
O'Brien will join the Department on Monday and will report to Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito.
One of O’Brien’s first actions is expected to be picking up the unfinished vetting of the six nonprofit dispensary operators the state has selected to provide the marijuana. Each operator must complete a 71-page permitting questionnaire and all employees must undergo police and FBI background checks. O’Brien’s staff will than take two months to evaluate the information before issuing the final permits. Once the permits are issued, the operators may begin growing marijuana.
The medical marijuana program is will not be in operation until sometime next year.
The Star-Ledger reports that the marijuana program, has been mainly idle since the Legislature and Gov. Jon Corzine approved the law nearly two years ago.
Four separate centers are challenging the state’s selection process, The Star-Ledger reports. I.D. cards have not been made, and the Health Department is unsure if it will even publish the names of 108 physicians who have pre-registered for the program, leaving patients unsure of how they can find an appropriate doctor.
For more information on the Medicinal Marijuana program visit: nj.gov/health/medicalmarijuana.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM