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Marijuana for Patients May Proceed, N.J. Governor Christie Says

  1. talltom
    New Jersey will forge ahead with its stalled medical marijuana program, Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday, adding that he believed the people involved will not face federal prosecution.

    The marijuana law, enacted in January 2010, called for the program to begin operation six months later. Instead, the soonest patients will receive state-sanctioned cannabis is late this year, almost two years after the program became law.

    Mr. Christie, a Republican, opposed the bill that former Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, signed on his last day in office. As governor, Mr. Christie postponed putting the program into effect, imposed restrictions on the program and delayed it over concerns about what the federal government would do.

    “When others said that it was because we didn’t want to implement the program, it just was never true,” he said at a news conference in Trenton.

    The governor said he wanted “to provide compassionate treatment to people who are suffering, in a way that will not expose them, the operators of our dispensaries or the employees of the State of New Jersey to criminal liability.”

    Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat and one of the law’s primary sponsors, said he had hoped that the governor would ease some of his restrictions, but played down that issue. “I would rather we address these things over the long term so that we can get the program up and running as quickly as possible,” Mr. Gusciora said.

    The regulations the governor placed on the program include limiting the strength of the marijuana, prohibiting edible forms of the drug and forbidding dispensaries from making home deliveries. Some patients say the drug combats pain, nausea and loss of appetite.

    Mr. Christie’s go-ahead means that state health officials can compile a patient registry and that six nonprofit organizations licensed by the state can lease space and begin growing plants.

    Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has said it will not bother with people who are complying with state medicinal marijuana laws. After federal law enforcement agencies cracked down on some medical marijuana operations in other states, Mr. Christie and other governors asked for clarification of federal policy.

    In a June 29 memorandum, the Justice Department said it was primarily concerned with large money-making operations that also supplied the black market. Mr. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, said he was confident that the state’s narrowly tailored efforts would not be penalized.

    Among the 16 states with medical marijuana laws, New Jersey has the most stringent one, restricting use of the drug to a short list of specific diseases and limiting the state to six dispensaries.

    New York Times
    July 19, 2011



  1. talltom
    N.J.'s medical marijuana program will bring needed relief to chronically ill

    This week NJ Gov. Chris Christie lifted the suspension of New Jersey's medical marijuana program.

    Great news for the chronically ill New Jerseyan who can find relief from smoking pot — Gov. Chris Christie has finally lifted his suspension of the state’s medical marijuana program.

    Patients could buy pot by the end of the year, growers say. This ends the stalling by the governor, who was concerned because federal law still prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana.

    Though the risk of prosecution was always small, several states shared Christie’s concern and had been rethinking their programs.

    A recent memo from the U.S. Department of Justice put those concerns to rest by making it clear that prosecutors will look the other way when a state operates a tightly controlled program like New Jersey’s.

    While Christie said Tuesday this is “not a law that I would have signed if I were governor at the time,” he went on to acknowledge the worthiness of the cause. “It’s a risk worth taking in order to alleviate the pain that people are suffering here in the state.”

    Christie has never been fond of this program. It was approved by the Democratic Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Jon Corzine on his last day in office. For many months, the governor’s team has been throwing up roadblocks, delaying the program’s implementation.

    Regulations drafted by his people still contain obnoxious provisions, like a ban on home delivery and rules that prohibit the more potent strains of the drug.

    Gov. Chris Christie today said the state will move forward with a "limited, medically-based" medical marijuana program. Though it's not a law he would have signed, he said his priority is getting care to those who need it.

    “A terminal cancer patient who is bedridden is unlikely to get into their Volkswagen and drive to a dispensary,” remarked Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of the law’s Democratic sponsors.

    Still, this is a big step forward. Six nonprofits have been authorized to sell the marijuana and will start growing it as soon as possible. Patients recommended by their doctors for the program will be told to apply for identification cards and put their names on a state registry.

    Marijuana is a relatively benign drug when compared with cocaine, heroin or even alcohol. If smoking pot helps relieve chronic pain for patients who have tried everything else, we say puff away.

    NJ Star-Ledger Editorial Board
    July 21, 2011,

  2. Rob Cypher
    Gov. Chris Christie: Slow progress on New Jersey medical marijuana isn’t ‘crisis’

    JERSEY CITY — Gov. Chris Christie said the slow progress of the medical marijuana program in New Jersey, where hundreds of people are waiting to obtain the drug from the state's lone supplier, is not a "crisis."

    Responding to a report in today's Star-Ledger about only one "alternative treatment center" operating out of the six nonprofits selected by the state two years ago to grow and sell marijuana, Christie said the vetting process is tough for a reason.

    "You look at what's going on across the country," Christie said, talking about lax enforcement of other medical marijuana programs. "Not going to happen in New Jersey. If they have to go through more regulatory hoops to make sure only the truly sick and suffering get this, then that is what we are going to do."

    The nonprofits have struggled to find communities willing to host them. Some have described the state's vetting process as arduous and confusing.

    "We will approve new dispensaries as they meet the requirements under the regulations. (Health) Commissioner (Mary) O'Dowd is working hard to get them through the regulatory requirements," Christie said in Jersey City.

    Christie also took aim against Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, which has served 114 patients at least once since opening Dec. 6. The remaining 562 registered patients face a two month-long wait before they get their turn.

    "If there is such demand, how come they (Greenleaf) are only open two days a week? If they were open six days a week, there wouldn't be such a demand. So some of this is artificial. They are trying to create a crisis," Christie said. "We have 8.8 million people in this state, and there are only 560 people signed statewide. This is no crisis."

    Greenleaf's operators said they are only open one or two days a week because they are reluctant to sell any marijuana with weak potency levels, and they don't want to dispense anything they believe won't help alleviate people's spasms, pain or nausea.

    Greenleaf co-founder Joe Stevens said given the governor's reservations about the program all along, he suspected the state "wants us to fail."

    Christie said that wasn't true.

    "If I wanted to sabotage something, I know how to sabotage something. I would pull the funding from it," he said. Christie's proposed budget for the year that begins July 1 include $1.6 million, more than double the current amount because O'Dowd said two of the nonprofits have secured locations and are nearly done with the background checks.

    Stevens could not immediately reached for comment.

    MAR 04 2013

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