People with certain medical conditions will be able to begin registering with New Jersey officials as medical marijuana patients beginning Thursday.

State Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd tells The Associated Press that it's an important step in the state's fledgling medical cannabis program.

Doctors willing to recommend the drug have been able to register since 2010. Now, the patients will be able to also.

The state will send patients' ID cards within five days after their applications are complete.

The registry is opening as the state's first legal medical marijuana dispensary prepares to open.

O'Dowd said Greenleaf Compassion Center of Montclair expects to open next month.

The six other centers selected by the state are further from opening.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)