Despite a recent memo from the federal government which indicated that state medical marijuana dispensaries could face prosecution, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he will allow the implementation of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, which was signed into law a year and a half ago as former Gov. Jon Corzine was leaving office. But the program was immediately put on hold, and as recently as a month ago, Christie was reluctant to allow the program, which is one of the strictest in the nation, to go forward. Now, however, he says that he is confident that federal prosecutors will have more important crimes to pursue.
“We were left with very little instruction at the end about how to implement this law,” Christie said. “I have been struggling, as has my administration, to find a way to accomplish what I’ve wanted to accomplish, which is to provide compassionate treatment to people who are suffering in a way that wouldn’t expose them, the operators of our dispensaries or the employees of the state of New Jersey to criminal liability.”
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program would permit six approved dispensaries to open, serving patients with debilitating conditions like multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or terminal cancer. It is clearly intended to restrict marijuana access only to extremely sick or dying patients, to aid with pain and nausea. According to the Wall Street Journal:
“Patients are limited to a 2-ounce supply every 30 days, and the active ingredient, THC is limited to a maximum of 10%. So far, 92 physicians from 19 counties have registered to participate in the program.”
Marijuana policy advocates heralded this as a step forward for the legalization of marijuana as a legitimate medication. In a statement, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Morgan Fox commented, “It is very heartening to see state leaders moving ahead with permitting and regulating the medical marijuana industry so that patients will not be forced to purchase their medicine from the illicit market. So far, the Department of Justice has been fairly decent about respecting state law with regard to dispensaries as long as those states have clear regulations for the industry.”
This program is especially noteworthy because Christie is a notoriously conservative governor, but his pragmatic stance on marijuana access as an issue of compassion for the terminally ill raises the possibility that other states might follow suit, even in the face of tightening federal oversight. Could Rhode Island be next?
Photo from GoodnightLondon via flickr.