Press Release  | 07/01/2011

Obama Administration Clarifies Medical Marijuana Enforcement for New Jersey

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Advocates Urge Governor Chris Christie to Move Forward with Implementation of New Jersey's Medical Marijuana Program

Patients and Families Hopeful that Sick and Dying People Will Soon Find Relief

Trenton—Advocates and medical marijuana patients and their families expressed optimism regarding the future of New Jersey's medical marijuana program in light of the recently released U.S. Department of Justice memorandum providing guidance on state medical marijuana programs.  Deputy Attorney General James Cole's memo reiterates statements from the Obama administration's 2009 Ogden memo that the Department of Justice does not consider it an efficient use of federal resources to prosecute medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

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 justifiable reason to delay the implementation of the state's medical marijuana program.  "We are heartened by the U.S. Department of Justice memo, which explicitly defines who is at risk--large scale commercial operations contemplating cultivation of tens of thousands of plants and having projected revenue of millions of dollars.  This level of commercial production isn't likely to exist under New Jersey's well-regulated distribution system, which allows only for the operation of smaller non-profit state-licensed Alternative Treatment Centers.  We implore Governor Christie to move forward with this program with all possible speed in order to provide relief to those sick and dying patients who have waited so long for the program to start."

"Also encouraging, the memo makes no mention of prosecution of state employees, which was the governor's last stated reason for putting the program on hold.  Fourteen other states are operating medical marijuana programs and no state workers have ever been prosecuted or threatened with prosecution.  Therefore, advocates say, state officials should feel confident that they can proceed with New Jersey's medical marijuana program without placing state employees in harms way.  "While we would have preferred a clearer statement from the Department of Justice, in light of all these factors, we believe that the responsibly regulated, relatively small scale operations envisioned under New Jersey's law will be safe from federal interference," said Scotti.

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 will not implement the program until the federal government responds to New Jersey Attorney General Paula's Dow request for guidance.  Now, with additional federal guidance, advocates and patients are hopeful that the Christie administration will move forward with implementing the program.

Seriously ill patients who are desperately awaiting access to medical marijuana in New Jersey say they expect Governor Christie to reconsider delaying the state's medical marijuana program now that they have received additional federal guidance.

Elise Segal, who suffers from multiple sclerosis said, "I think the Department of Justice memo is promising.  The governor was concerned about state employees being prosecuted and the only people the federal government seems interested in targeting are those cultivating and distributing large amounts of medical marijuana.  In New Jersey, state workers will be issuing me my registry ID card and overseeing the ATCs, but they won't be directly growing my medicine or selling it to me.  I've been suffering with severe pain and muscle spasms for longer than I can remember and have been desperately awaiting the start of New Jersey's medical marijuana program for over a year!  In light of this new memo, I'm hopeful this suffering will soon end and that the governor will treat sick and dying people with compassion by implementing the program immediately!"

Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215

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