N.J. Won’t Roll Out Medical Marijuana Program Until 2011


Graphic: Clipart ETC

​The administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will get an extension — until January 2011 — to roll out the Garden State’s medical marijuana program, already the most restrictive in the nation, according to the state senator who sponsored the law.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) also said is “considering” another request to change the law to allow just one centralized marijuana growing operation that would supply the six “alternative treatment centers” (dispensaries) that would sell cannabis to patients, reports Susan K. Livio at NorthJersey.com.
“They are looking at one secure location where the product is grown so you know what you are producing,” Scutari said.
According to the Christie Administration, Rutgers University’s agricultural center should grow the marijuana, and hospitals should dispense it under the state’s medical marijuana program, according to three people brief on the proposal, Livio reports.

Photo: The Star-Ledger
N.J. State Sen. Nicolas Scutari: “I don’t want this to become too restrictive. We are not giving out poison.”

​If Gov. Christie’s plan is adopted, New Jersey would become the first among the 14 medical marijuana states to run a centralized production and distribution system. The proposed changes would make the program — already the most conservative in the nation — even more restrictive.
The changes would also eliminate the option of entrepreneurial growers and dispensaries getting in on some of the state’s medical marijuana business.
Letting the program operate in a centralized fashion through just one growing location, along with dispensing marijuana through hospitals, would minimize some of Christie’s concern about the program posing a “security and safety threat,” accordingd to anonymous sources.
Sen. Scutari called that plan an “interesting thought,” but one that would require an amendment to the law, which calls for a minimum of six nonprofit entities to produce and sell pot.
“I am not saying I am not going to do it, but there are other ways to be successful,” Scutari said.
Scutari said he understands Christie’s desire to strictly control access to marijuana, “But I don’t want this to become too restrictive,” he said. “We are not giving out poison.”
Meanwhile, critics said the governor is dragging his feet while at least 5,000 residents of New Jersey continue to suffer without the medical marijuana recommended by their doctors.
Roseanne Scotti, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, said she had heard rumors about the Christie Administration’s plan involving Rutgers and hospitals, but she just wished the state would stick to the bill which already took years to pass.
“Why go back to the drawing board, especially when seriously ill people are waiting?” she asked.
The law signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine intended for the program to begin in October, which includes a three-month period for publicizing and possibly amending the program’s rules.
Scutari said he plans to introduce a bill Monday granting the Health Department an additional 90 days — from October to January — to write the rules and roll out the medical marijuana program. The Christie Administration had sought a delay of up to a year.