NJ Governor Gives Okay to Medical Marijuana Program [FEATURE]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced Tuesday that he will allow the Garden State's medical marijuana program to go into effect, despite vague threats by federal prosecutors that state workers involved in implementing the program could face prosecution. Christie's decision should bring an end to nearly 18 months of delayed implementation of the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

Medical marijuana -- coming soon to the Garden State (image via wikimedia.org)
State officials will "begin work immediately" to get six Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) up and running by year's end, Christie said at a Trenton press conference. "We're moving forward with the program as it was set up," he said. "The need to provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk we are taking in moving forward with the program."

Christie had been accused of foot-dragging by legislators and medical marijuana supporters, who have waited with decreasing patience as the months rolled by without the program actually getting underway. First, state officials took months laboring over how to regulate the program, then Christie halted implementation of the program, saying he sought clarification from federal prosecutors on whether state officials could move ahead without fear of federal prosecution.

That in turn followed a year of delays during which the governor first sought to delay implementation of the law, floated a proposal to limit medical marijuana dispensing to the Rutgers University medical complex (they declined), and in which the state health department twice issued draft regulations that sponsors and advocates charged would effectively make the program unworkable.

The more recent delays were understandable. Federal prosecutors in a number of states with or considering medical marijuana distribution systems have this year sent threat letters to state officials warning that any distribution of medical marijuana remained a crime under federal law and that anyone involved in it -- including state officials -- could be subject to prosecution. Those letters were followed late last month by a Justice Department memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole that seemed to indicate a tougher line from the Obama administration on large medical marijuana providers, pulling back from a previously stated (though imperfectly implemented) position that medical marijuana suppliers acting in accordance with state laws were not suitable targets for federal prosecutors.

The Cole memo, however, did not mention state employees. Despite the lack of explicit of reassurance on the matter, Christie decided to move forward anyway. "After reading both the letter from Deputy Attorney General Cole and also reading remarks from then-candidate Barack Obama, and most importantly, the way we've set up the program, I have decided to move forward as expeditiously as possible to implement the medical marijuana program in New Jersey as outlined," he vowed.

The New Jersey medical marijuana program will allow patients suffering from specified illnesses or conditions to use marijuana with the approval of a physician. The law will create a registry of patients and a system of six ATCs scattered across the state. It will be administered by the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Advocates have criticized some of the program's regulations as overly restrictive, and Christie's announcement today doesn't change that.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finally does the right thing on medical marijuana. (image via wikimedia.org)
"We still have a number of concerns about the regulations put out by the DHSS for this program," Registered Nurse Ken Wolski, who is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, told the Chronicle Monday. "The physician registry is unnecessary and will disqualify numerous patients.  Plus the cap on THC level is arbitrary. Home delivery is not being permitted which is just another roadblock to patient access by the Christie administration."

Still, it's a happy week for Wolski. "We are happy that the governor is moving forward with the medicinal marijuana program," Wolski said Monday evening. "Patients have suffered too long waiting for this. In thousands of cases patients in NJ have already died without the improvement in quality of life and relief of suffering that marijuana can bring," he noted.

New Jersey multiple sclerosis sufferer Elise Segal was pleased as well. "I am extremely pleased that the governor decided to move forward with the program," Segal said. "I have nothing but feelings of gratitude toward him and his administration.  I hope the program can get up and running now as soon as possible, so that people like me who are suffering will soon have relief." It looks like Segal will get her wish before year's end.

Christie's announcement was greeted with relief by national groups as well, who called on officials in other states to follow his lead. Since federal prosecutors started sending out the threat letters earlier this year, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) gutted a bill passed by the legislature that would have set up a state-licensed distribution system, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) delayed implementing her state's program, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) has put his state's program on hold.

"If Gov. Christie can implement his state's medical marijuana program in the face of recent attempts by the federal government to intimidate public officials, then states like Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington should be empowered to implement theirs as well," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "Gov. Christie's decision to move ahead with New Jersey's medical marijuana program should be a clarion call to other public officials like Gov. Brewer that the health and welfare of their people are paramount," Sherer added.

"We are absolutely thrilled that the governor has decided to move forward with the program and we hope that officials in other states who are contemplating options for their programs will follow New Jersey’s lead," said Roseanne Scotti, who lobbied the legislature for years on the issue as state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Gov. Christie’s thoughtful analysis regarding state medical marijuana programs shows that states can and should move forward with well-regulated and responsible programs," she added.

Trenton, NJ
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Has a heart

   I'm proud of the Gov., and I hope that he continues to see the benefit to allowing adults,to use their own minds, to make the decision that they feel is right for them. I do believe that in the long run,that Gov. Christie will benefit from such a decision. Compassion is a beautiful thing.

I thought this was a joke

 I thought this was a joke when I read the headline.  All I can say is I am amazed Christie finally came around.  I never expected this from him.  Kudos to you, Guv'na.

Christie does something right, not far right

Christie does something right, not far right

Christie did something right, not far right.

Christie did something right, not far right.

Way to go, Governor Christie!

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let’s include saying “Good Job!” when we see someone moving in the right direction (and possibly likely to take some heat for it).
    Here’s the link to Governor Christie’s feedback site: http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/
    Way to go, Governor Christie!

Way to go, Governor Christie!

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let’s include saying “Good Job!” when we see someone moving in the right direction (and possibly likely to take some heat for it). Here’s the link to Governor Christie’s feedback site:   http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/  Way to go, Governor Christie!

Good for Gov. Christie!

At the press conference, was the part of the governor played by Jeff Garlin?

One question I would have liked to see asked was if one of their 6 licensed dispensaries is raided by the feds, will the state step up and defend them?

Way to Go!, Hat's off to ya!

Its about time that our governor's stood up to the Fed's. They should all do that.

Let the Federal Government come an try to arrest everyone. It will cost them BIG in the end.

It's bad enough that the Fed's asses are on the line, with what going on in our country and world today.

Lock everyone up in the U.S.A. Obama, go ahead an try!

American's need to stand our ground on all issue's.

Gov. Christie you get my vote if ya run for President! We need people like you to take a stand!

Great to see this Leader has a Heart!

Only wish Obama had one!

Really?????

Christie is a terrible leader, a straight up liar. After doing everything in his power to prevent this LAW from going into effect, you're going to commend for finally following the law.  People like You voted for Bush, TWICE!!  It's time to send a message people, do not vote for incumbents.  We need to send a clear message that we are tired of cronyism, sick of the lies, and disgusted over the fact they they no longer represent the  people, but their own special interests.

I'll vote for him

I wonder if Christie is running for President? Also, did Christie (R) really reference candidate Obama?

Post-Murdoch era begins

I think we will see much progress soon now that politicians are out from under the thumbscrews of the murdoch media mogul mafia.  Yes, give credit and encourage them.

Time to move forward and  combine Responsible Use as encouraged by NORML and other organizations with the Tokepure concept now adopted as a platform in UK by CLEAR (Cannabis Law Reform Party) and UKCIA (Cannabis Internet Activists).  Many North Americans used to unadulterated organic herb may be surprised to know that by some estimates 2/3 of European cannabis users combine weed or, often, hashish with tobacco in a "joint".  (For example Dutch Wikipedia cannabis articles, last time I looked, contained an uncited statement that the word "joint" referred to this union with the killer weed.)  Some do it in order to get the hashish to burn (hey, don't burn it, vaporize it!) or in fear of the "too great strength" of skunkweed as warned against by murdoch's politicians, so they try to "cut" it with something "milder" ($igarette tobacco is milder because they put drugs in it to make it feel milder, duh?).  This amounts to a sneaky way to get lots of youngsters hooked on nicotine and rates of $igarette addiction are in fact higher in Europe than in USA.  (Closest USA equivalent is the "blunt" where many users are left unwarned that addictive nicotine may be present in the "cigar skin".)

The answer could be to promote, authorize, legalize, encourage, make, sell, distribute a single-toke utensil or "one-hitter" which EXEMPLIFIES RESPONSIBLE USE, i.e. dosage control and regulation, by having a screened crater so small you can serve only up to 25 mg per toke.  This also ACHIEVES TOKEPURE because there is neither room nor perceived need to put any tobacco in, just pre-sifted herb or kief! 

Hold the lighter flame far enough away from the utensil opening so that while sucking slow you get the herb turned black from drying out (vapors harvested) before it starts glowing.

The Control and Regulation is centered in the utensil, and a modest amount of skill using it--- or a better but more expensive plug-in vaporizer, which is still less expensive than a few weeks of a pack-a-day $igarette habit in NYC--- rather than in cops and nannies telling you what you can and can't do.

Please help encourage the politicians to endorse shifting the "smoking:" population, both tobacco and cannabis, away from hot burning overdose $igarette smoking (which, in the case of the cannabis "joint", delivers heat shock and carbon monoxide producing dopy "drug symptoms" murdoch got away with blaming on cannabis) and toward utensils which truly vaporize rather than burn.  Go to wikiHow.com: "How to Make Smoke Pipes From Everyday Objects" and related articles about sifting herb and making crater screens, sign in with a username, and edit, correct, improve the articles, providing photos of one-hitters you know how to make etc.  In this way predictions of a modest DECREASE in cannabis use (mainly a decrease in wasteful overdosing per user) will be borne out, "drug" pathology incidents avoided, and the new liberalized laws won't run into a backlash. 

Kudos to Gov. Christie

He has my vote.

Fuck the Feds

That's totally the New Jersey Gov did that as it's time to stand up to those irresponsible Federal Government that push Big Phara on people that really need meds and would rather go all natural then force some unknown chemicals down the throats to those who are in desperate needs and measures.  I am sure that at some point when everything just blows up in the Feds faces like now as the downfall of Money debt crisis that we currently have is ruining everything that should realize that Alcohol is not the future of solving peoples problems the future is Cannabis and that we should be aloud to grow as much as we need with out any worries or downfalls so that we can cure the world one step at a time.  How many more states do we need so that we can continue to crush the Feds and make Cannabis legal once and for all.....  NEW JERSEY ROCKS you have a definately deserve a gold star from my place for sure 100%.

Cheers

legalize it

it's about time they do something useful for a change instead of running around stealing our money and flying around in the bat chopper

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