Gov. Christie to delay implementing N.J.'s medical marijuana law
By Ginger Gibson and Susan K. Livio/The Star-Ledger | Published: Thursday, June 16, 2011
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie last night said he won’t allow medical marijuana for chronically ill patients until the federal government assures him they won’t prosecute anyone for working in the program. It is a new stipulation by the governor, who has been accused of intentionally trying to delay the law.
“The federal government is saying medical marijuana is against the law,” Christie said in an appearance on the“On the Line” call-in show, which was televised tonight on New Jersey Network and streamed live on NJ.com. “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 said his office has written two letters to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and not received a response.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), a sponsor of the medical marijuana law, said he wasn’t aware the governor had put a halt to rolling out the medical marijuana law.
“I thought the program was moving forward. It was the whole reason we compromised,” Gusciora said, referring to an agreement he struck with the administration that would curb some of the components of the law that Christie said were too permissive.
“It’s disappointing — he should go ahead. It’s more of his national ambitions getting the better of him,’’ Gusciora said.
Gusciora said he intended to introduce legislation next week that would decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana, similar to laws enacted in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.
State Attorney General Paula Dow has been waiting since April for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to explain whether people who legitimately work to make medical marijuana available would be shielded from federal prosecution. Possession and distribution of the drug is a federal crime, even though 16 states passed laws making it available to select patients.
Christie was accused of trying to hold up implementation of the law, signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine on his last day in office. After a compromise on rules was struck, the administration selected who will sell and grow for the program.
The hour-long program, hosted by Steve Adubato, was structured similar to a town hall. The Star-Ledgerparticipated by supplying questions on video. Christie was asked about a myriad topics, including the deal struck on pension and health benefits, charter schools and his use of the state helicopter.
In the wake of today’s action on pension legislation, one caller asked the governor why the state didn’t make payment to the pension system last year.
“We simply didn’t have the money. That doesn’t excuse what happened before,” Christie said.