|Photo: AC Weekly|
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been asking for more time to implement the state’s new medical marijuana law, and now it appears the bill’s chief sponsor, state Senator Nicholas Scutari, is going to give it to him.
Back in January, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize marijuana for medical uses. A last-minute change to the legislation — as part of a deal which made the law more restrictive in terms of who qualifies for medical marijuana, and how much they can get each month — speeded up the timeline for implementation from one year to six months after it was signed into law, reports Jonathan Valania at the Philadelphia Weekly.
As passed, the law directs the state Health Department to devise rules by July 1 that would control the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. After a 60-day comment period, the state would then have until November to open the first six nonprofit marijuana dispensaries.
|Photo: NY Post|
|N.J. Gov. Chris Christie wants to make seriously ill patients wait another six months for the only medicine that works|
But the Christie Administration has asked for an extension of nine to 12 months, hoping to push back the deadline as far as July 2011.
Gov. Christie claims the additional time is needed to allow Health Department Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh to figure out how and where marijuana will be grown and sold, and by whom.
An extension would require the cooperation of the law’s chief sponsor — Sen. Scutari — who would then introduce an amendment that would have to pass both houses of the New Jersey Legislature before summer recess, just two weeks away.
Scutari initially said he was not inclined to grant the delay.
“I said, ‘Send me a memo on what your issues are, and I’ll consider it, but I’m not going to give you that much time.’ It’s been in effect since January,” Scutari said last month.
|Photo: The Star-Ledger|
|N.J. State Sen. Nicolas Scutari: “I am probably going to give them some additional time”|
But in a Monday interview with the Philadelphia Weekly, Scutari confirmed that he was willing to give the Christie Administration more time.
“I’ve given it some consideration and I am probably going to give them some additional time, but not [the six to nine months]they are asking for,” Scutari said. “I just think it makes sense.”
“I was not entirely convinced that the administration [was acting in good faith]; however, I have just met with the Health Department and I am convinced that they have been doing their homework and I will work with the administration if they can show some progress in getting a patient registry up and running,” Scutari said.
Scutari said he was leaning towards a 90- to 120-day extension.
If implementation is delayed, the soonest that medical marijuana patients could expect to get their medication would be March 2011, according to Skip Stabile, an aide in Scutari’s office.
Medical marijuana advocates are threatening legal action if there is any delay.
“We have a legal team working on this as we speak,” said Anne Davis, executive director of NORML NJ.
“We are talking about patients that don’t have an extra six months of a year,” Davis said. “Some may not be alive that long.”
“I was just meeting with a lung cancer patient last night that wants to participate in the program. He is sick right now; he needs medical marijuana right now,” Davis said.