Trenton—Advocates and medical marijuana patients and their families express dismay and outrage at Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that he would put New Jersey’s medical marijuana program on hold. The Governor stated yesterday that he did not intend to move forward with the program until he received reassurance from federal officials that they would not prosecute state employees.
Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of Drug Policy Alliance, the organization that spearheaded the effort to pass the legislation, says that there is no legitimate reason to put the program on hold. “We urge the governor to reconsider this decision. Nothing has changed in the equation between state and federal law. 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.” Polling has shown public support for medical marijuana in New Jersey at higher than 80 percent.
In January 2010, New Jersey became the fifteenth state to pass a law allowing for access to medical marijuana. The law was signed by outgoing Governor Jon Corzine. Governor Chris Christie has stated that he supports allowing access to medical marijuana but advocates and patients have accused the administration of stalling on implementation of the program.
Seriously ill patients who are desperately awaiting access to medical marijuana in New Jersey say that they fear that the administration is playing politics with the law and might use federal authority as an excuse not to implement the program.
Nancy Fedder, of Hillsborough: Somerset County, says, “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. 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!”
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), the main sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, said, “You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out there's some foot dragging going on.”
Despite the Governor’s announcement, advocate vowed to fight on for the implementation of the bill. “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.”
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