A retired New Jersey State Police official is taking charge of the state’s regulation of medical marijuana.

John O’Brien served on the State Police for 26 years, ending up as a lieutenant.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says the 51-year-old will start next week overseeing the medical marijuana program.

Six nonprofit groups have been chosen to sell and grow the drug for qualified patients. The businesses are expected to open in 2012.

Last week, the state finalized its regulations of the industry — a major step toward allowing the legal pot trade to start after many delays.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)