The Garden State is about to include some weeds.
On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said medical marijuana can be dispensed to patients with specific conditions, a decision that comes almost a year after the state officially legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.
“This is one of those decisions that’s not an easy one for me as governor,” said Christie, according to CBS. “I had to balance the benefit that will go to citizens in pain versus some potential risks to the folks that were authorizing as dispensaries and to state employees.”
Christie had delayed moving forward with any sanctioned programs before seeking assurances that the state, its employees and citizens would not face penalties for breaking federal laws.
A memo last month from the Justice Department said that as long as the sponsored programs were kept small, the state was unlikely to face the scorn of armed federal agents or court room appearances. The letter, however, offered no guarantee. Nor do recent events.
A 2009 memo by former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said prosecutors should “not focus federal resources” on “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Since then, however, the Obama has gone against the memo’s advice, by both reinterpreting the original letter’s intent and increasing the number of federal medical marijuana raids, according to Reason magazine.
Despite the federal record, marijuana advocates celebrated Christie’s decision. (Martin Sheen, Matthew Perry push for drug courts support at D.C. event)
“We are absolutely thrilled that the governor has decided to move forward with the program,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of Drug Policy Alliance, which has been spearheading state efforts. “[W]e hope that officials in other states who are contemplating options for their programs will follow New Jersey’s lead.”