Christie approves medical marijuana for New Jersey

The state will move forward on putting its 2010 medical marijuana law into  action, despite apparent conflict with federal law the controlled dangerous  substance, according to a statement from the governor.

“I have instructed the Commissioner of Health to move forward as expeditiously  as possible to implement the medical marijuana program in New Jersey,” said Gov.  Chris Christie on July 19.

According to Christie, the conflict with federal law does not leave medical  marijuana suppliers and distributors at risk for prosecution under federal law.  “…[I]n the end, I do feel uniquely situated compared to probably a number of my  predecessors who are hanging on the walls in this room to make an evaluation of  what federal law enforcement would and would not do in the context of all of the  facts and circumstances that are here,” said Christie.

“It is clear that we have been careful with this legislation and its  regulations,” said Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “This is  the strictest law on medical marijuana in the country. It meets a need for  critically ill people. And, the governor has been careful to protect New  Jerseyans relying on this law.”

In March, Christie requested that the state’s Attorney General write to the U.S.  Attorney General to “…seek clarification for a state like ours that already had  passed a medical marijuana law and had already promulgated regulations and  awarded dispensaries to deal with the implementation of the program.”

The state received its response on June 30.

Consequently, the governor decided to state’s “compassionate care” marijuana  program forward based on the U.S. Attorney’s representation of enforcement  policies regarding medical marijuana programs and a 2008 comment by President  Barack Obama that indicated an emphasis on investigating terrorism and violent  crimes rather than “using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent  state laws on this issue.”

“How long it’s going to take is something that we’ll probably know in the next  week or two, when we get a response from the dispensaries about how quickly they  can get up and running, but it is my judgment not only as governor but I think  almost more importantly as a former United States Attorney, that I don’t believe  that the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, and I’m not speaking for  them, I don’t have the authority to do that any longer, I don’t believe the  United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, given the narrow and medically  based nature of our program will expend what are significantly lessening federal  law enforcement resources in the context of the federal budget, on going after  dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health or other state workers who  are helping to implement this program,” said Christie.

“They have too many other things I think to do, appropriately so, and while I  have not gotten any indication, I want to make this clear, I have not spoken to  the United States Attorney about this, and I’ve gotten no indication either  directly or indirectly from U.S. Attorney [Paul] Fishman about what approach he  may take,” he said. Fishman serves as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

“This is one of those decisions that’s not an easy one for me as Governor. I had  to balance the benefit that will go to citizens in pain versus some potential  risks to the folks that we’re authorizing as dispensaries and to state  employees. But I believe based on my background in law enforcement, my reading  of the deputy Attorney General’s memorandum, and the comments by the President  of the United States, that it’s a risk worth taking in order to alleviate the  pain that people are suffering here in the state,” said Christie.

Van Drew said that he has been approached by constituents advocating for the  medical marijuana on behalf of ill relatives.

“I had one lady, a conservative Republican, who approached me on behalf of a  sick friend on this issue,” said Van Drew.

The law passed the Assembly by a 48-14 margin Jan. 11, 2010; Assemblymen Nelson  Albano and Mat Milam cast votes against the then-bill. The state senate passed  the bill the same day, by a 25-13 vote. Senator Jeff Van Drew voted in favor of  the legislation.

Then-Gov. Jon Corzine signed the bill into law before turning over the helm to  Christie. Proposed rules for the law were issued in November 2010; modified by  legislation that deemed the rules “inconsistent” with the statute; and then  re-issued in January.

Public hearings on the regulatory scheme were held in the spring.

Under the plan, six “alternative treatment centers” were designated to cultivate  and dispense medicinal marijuana; the rules prohibit satellite alternative  treatment centers, home delivery of the substance and that “medical conditions  originally named in the act be resistant to conventional medical therapy in  order to qualify as debilitating medical conditions for purposes of a patient  obtaining a registry identification card.”

Debilitating medical conditions include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple  sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, or inflammatory bowel disease,  including Crohn’s disease, as well as terminal illness, if the physician  determines the patient has less than 12 months to live, according to the  statute.

Patients seeking medical marijuana are required to register with the state  program, after their treating physician registers and is certified to prescribe  the controlled dangerous substance. The program will be administered by the  state’s Department of Health and Senior Services.

The department announced the six alternative treatment center sites in March,  naming two in North Jersey, two in central new Jersey and two in the southern  area of the state. Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. of West Trenton will  operate a facility in Bellmawr in Camden County and Compassionate Sciences, Inc.  ATC of Sea Cliff, N.Y., will operate the second southern region facility, in an  undetermined location in Burlington or Camden County.

Cape May County residents who meet the criteria for the program will be  permitted to designate a primary caregiver to pick up their prescription at the  treatment center, if they are too ill to travel. The caregiver will be required  to register with the center and undergo a criminal background investigation.

Local law enforcement is taking a “wait and see” attitude.

“From what I am hearing it is a highly regulated program. We haven’t had  training on this yet, but I imagine it will be very clear if there is an abuse  of the program,” said Middle Township Police Chief Chris Leusner.

via :  Shore News Today

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