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NJ Health Department Apologizes After Privacy Breach In Email To Medical Marijuana Patients

A man smokes licenced medicinal marijuana.  (file/credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A man smokes licenced medicinal marijuana. (file/credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

CBS New York (con't)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Some medical marijuana patients in New Jersey are upset that an email from the state health department included the email addresses of all recipients.

“I think it’s apparent to everybody including the Department of Health that this is a huge privacy issue,” Victor Pinho with the New Jersey Coalition for Medical Marijuana told WCBS 880′s Levon Putney.

WCBS 880′s Levon Putney reports


The state e-mailed more than 480 registered medical marijuana patients to tell them not to call the state, but instead to call the dispensary in Montclair to make an appointment. But the message did not hide the e-mail addresses of the other recipients.

“I felt the email pretty much said ‘be quiet and be grateful,’” Lisa Segal of Wenonah told Putney.

“This breakdown in privacy puts the patients at risk and puts the program at risk and these sorts of things cannot, cannot be happening in the state of New Jersey,” Pinho told Putney.

Segal said she counted the email addresses of all 481 medical marijuana patients on the message.

“I felt that was an unbelievable breach of privacy,” Segal said.

The state health department apologized for the error and said it has taken steps to prevent the error from happening again.

Patients have been getting waiting to hear from the state to get the drug. As of Tuesday, fewer than 100 patients got medical pot through an appointment at Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, Putney reported.

The dispensary opened on Dec. 6 and has been seeing patients one at a time by appointment only.

On the day the dispensary opened, officials had registered 338 patients who can receive medical marijuana, with another 61 applications under review. All must meet a list of requirements, including having one of 12 specific debilitating illnesses.

Multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, glaucoma and HIV are among the approved conditions.

The New Jersey Department of Health also issued the following statement:
The Medicinal Marijuana Program inadvertently sent an insensitive message that mistakenly disclosed patient email addresses to other participants in the program. The Department sincerely apologizes for the error and has taken immediate steps to ensure this does not happen again.

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