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Gov. Christie Puts Hold on NJ Medical Marijuana Program

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #689)
Drug War Issues

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Thursday day night he won't allow the state's medical marijuana program to get underway until he receives reassurances from Washington that the federal government will not prosecute state workers involving in regulating it. It is the latest delay by the governor, whom advocates accuse of dragging his feet on implementing a law passed before he was elected.

"The federal government is saying medical marijuana is against the law," Christie explained during an appearance on On the Line, a call-in show broadcast on the New Jersey Network. "Until I get that assurance, I cannot ask people to do things that they might get prosecuted by federal prosecutors. What happens if they get arrested and I ordered them to do it, that's wrong," Christie said.

Christie added that his office has twice written to US Attorney Paul Fishman seeking clarification, but has not received a response. The letters were written by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow -- the first one in April -- and copied to US Attorney General Eric Holder. Fishman has repeatedly referred media queries to Holder, and it appears he's giving New Jersey officials the same silent treatment.

State Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Donna Leusner told New Friday the state continues to prepare to implement the program. "We are continuing our work on the program, but are waiting for clarification on the application of federal law,'' Leusner said.

Activists and patients were not amused. They noted that it has been nearly a year and a half since the law was passed, and no patient has yet been able to legally access his or her medicine.

"We urge the governor to reconsider this decision. Nothing has changed in the equation between state and federal law," said Roseanne Scotti, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, who helped massage the law through the legislature. "Fourteen other states are operating medical marijuana programs and no state workers have ever been prosecuted or threatened with prosecution. By delaying implementation, the governor is condemning sick and dying people to turn to the illegal market for the medicine that best relieves their pain and suffering. Delaying the implementation of this bill also thwarts the will of the people of New Jersey who overwhelmingly support this program."

"It is the federal government that is wrong in this, not New Jersey. State officials should not look to the feds for guidance on medical marijuana," said Ken Wolski, director of the state's largest patient lobbying group, the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. "The attorney general should instead be insisting that the federal government reschedule marijuana from its absurd Schedule I status."

"I can't believe that Governor Christie is forcing sick New Jersey citizens to use the black market for medicine that is proven to help them," said patient Nancy Fedder of Hillsborough. "I have Multiple Sclerosis and medical marijuana is absolutely a better choice for me. This law was passed by our legislators over a year ago and Governor Christie has done everything he can to hinder its implementation. Now he's putting the entire program on hold!"

Legislative sponsors of the medical marijuana law weren't pleased either. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out there's some foot dragging going on," said Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden).

"I thought the program was moving forward. It was the whole reason we compromised," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), who sponsored the bill in the Assembly. "It's disappointing -- he should go ahead. It's more of his national ambitions getting the better of him," he told New

Advocates vowed to continue to fight to get the program implemented. "We plan to do everything in our power to urge the governor to move forward with the program," said Scotti. "If the governor is worried about state workers getting arrested, we know many smart dedicated individuals who would be more than happy to take the jobs overseeing the medical marijuana program and assume any risk of arrest. Let people run the program who care about the program and about relieving the suffering of sick and dying people. There's a solution right there."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


BillieBudd (not verified)

He, Gregoire, Chafee and some others, are taking the coward's way out by citing needed federal assurance, which any sentient being can deduce will never come...The Governor of Vermont is the only leader with cojones, IMO...

Sun, 06/19/2011 - 10:59am Permalink
toddtoad (not verified)


He's seen too many lives ruined by drugs? Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death. It is arguable that we have seen way more lives destroyed by heart disease. Who wants to bet big Christie loves to feed himself fatty heart disease promoting food? 
Same with Obama. Talking about drugs while he smokes his cigarettes. Our country is virtually bankrupt and talking about shutting schools and libraries down, but we send troops all over the west coast to hunt for MJ grows. We send in the feds to bust Marijuana testing facilities that make sure grandma isn't smoking moldy buds. Why? Half a million children go missing a year in the US and we spend our resources on Marijuana? Are we really this stupid?
John Edwards says "Decriminalizing Marijuana will set a bad example for kids". What about banging some lady you met on the street 4 hours ago while your wife is battling cancer? What does that say to kids?
John Mccain told someone battling Muscular Distrophy that he thinks Medical Marijuana is a bad idea. He doesn't mind that his wife advertises her crappy beer to the world during the olympics though. Thats a much better way to influence kids right? You would also think he would be a little more sympathetic considering his wife's previous history with prescription narcotics and theft of a charity. Hundreds of thousands die on prescription and OTC drugs. Marijuana has no lethal dose. Why can't I choose what I put in MY body. Why are politicians making health decisions for everyone?  
I can understand all of the above though. They profit off the current model while we pay for it. What I can't understand is why we keep voting for these parasitic hypocrites. 
Sun, 06/19/2011 - 8:16pm Permalink
Blair Sadewitz (not verified)

People have the right to drugs, period.  No one should need a prescription for ANYTHING.  People should go to doctors because they want to, not because they have to.  Is it illegal for me to fix my car myself?  Then why can't I purchase medications myself?  I support everyone's right to marijuana--and any other drug.  The real problem here is the pharmaceutical cartel colluding with doctors to make sure that it is impossible for people to get drugs that there is a demand for.

How about we decriminalize drugs and put the money we spend housing non-violent drug offenders into social programs instead?  Derp!@#$!@##@!


The combined death toll from alcohol and tobacco eclipses that of all other illcit drugs combined many times over.  This has nothing to do with anything except who's getting the money.  If you think otherwise, you haven't done your homework.

t's time we take back OUR RIGHT TO DRUGS.  The strongest argument for restriction of any drug is perhaps the restriction of antibiotics, because overuse of antibiotics can result in a public health crisis.  But doctors have no problems prescribing and overprescribing antiobotics.  The mind boggles.  Please, people, please, I urge you: wake up!

Sun, 06/19/2011 - 9:59pm Permalink (not verified)


We have the same problem in Michigan, except that we were allowed to implement our program before the powers that be were able to start trying to undermine it.  We have a wonderful local zoning ordinance that a citizen's group put together in our small Northwest Michigan community, but our city attorney is colluding with other municipal lawyers to draft a letter asking for "guidance" from our US Attorney in Michigan on dispensaries and other aspects of the law.  This is just like Christi who is thinking more about the future of their careers than the will of the people.  We have told them time and time again that we already know what the federal gov is going to say, and that we in no uncertain terms don't care either.  We passed it in our small town to make it the lowest law enforcement priority by the same margin that we passed in later at the state level.  We did this because we don't care what the feds think.  The problem is the same all over.  A bunch of conservatives that claim they favor state's rights turn and cry for leadership from the Great Father in Washington on a "moral issue" when the voters declare that they want access to their medicine.  In Michigan we are being told by our Republican leaders that we were "duped" at the ballot box.  Well, since we elected Republican majorities in the House, Senate and Governorship, and they are now trying to override our votes with federal assistance, then perhaps were were "duped" into voting for them too.


Thu, 06/23/2011 - 5:09pm Permalink

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