New medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey are causing prices to fall as they compete with others in the state.

The state Health Department released a report last month saying the average price in 2015 was $489 an ounce. Advocates said that was among the highest in the nation, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

But two dispensaries that launched last fall have offered discounts and specials knocking that price down to the $300 range, as well as innovative products.

When Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center opened in Bellmawr in September, it took $40 off the going price of $480 an ounce and announced discounts. Gretchen McCarthy, the dispensary director, said there are discounts for low-income patients and military veterans.

Andrew Zaleski, one of the owners of Breakwater Treatment and Wellness Center, which opened in Cranbury in October, said his dispensary helped spark the healthy competition that has lowered prices overall.

"We were pioneers when it comes to trying to help the patient community, as far as making it more affordable," he said.

Compassionate Sciences is the only dispensary to obtain state approval to construct a manufacturing room that will be used to produce a marijuana syrup for sick children and other products. Breakwater plans to submit similar manufacturing plans.

New Jersey has five dispensaries, but the amount of patients being served has fallen below expectations, with 7,000 registered since the program's inception six years ago. Operators had projected that 100,000 patients would sign up.

Dispensary operators and patients blamed strict state regulations, saying they've made the program too expensive.

Health officials have defended the rules, saying the department wants patients to get a safe, high-quality cannabis product, and prevent recreational use.

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