Scarlet Knights or Yellow Frights? Rutgers University has fearfully turned down a request from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to grow medical marijuana as part of the state’s new medicinal cannabis program.
The university said that, if it were to grow the herb, which is illegal for any purpose under federal law, it could lose out on millions of dollars of government funding, reports Richard Perez-Pena of The New York Times.
State laws allowing medical marijuana are in conflict with federal laws banning the herb. The Obama administration has ratcheted down federal raids of marijuana dispensaries in states where it is legal, but the Drug Enforcement Administration remains dead set against granting permission to grow the plants — even in a university setting, and even for medical research.
With five months to go until its new medical marijuana law is scheduled to take effect, that moves the Garden State even farther away from having answers to basic questions about how the law will work — specifically, who will grow the marijuana and who will dispense it.
Gov. Christie’s administration had been pursuing a plan to make Rutgers the only approved cultivator of cannabis in the state, and to make teaching hospitals the only places where patients could get it. On Thursday, state officials said the hospitals had the same concern — losing government funding — as did the university.
|Photo: State of New Jersey|
|I’m guessing that’s not a jar of weed Dean Robert Goodman of Rutgers University holding. Cluuuuuck cluck cluck, cluuuuuck cluck cluck cluck…|
”High education is infinitely tied to the federal government, operating under the presumption we are not violating federal law,” explained Robert Goodman, dean of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
“We were sincerely interested in the opportunity, but we had external counsel and our folks looked into it, and yesterday it became totally clear we could not do this,” Goodman said.
“It’s a potential new crop for the state, and we’re interested in promoting the state’s economy,” Goodman said. But, he said, “it just puts too much at risk,” jeopardizing research grants, contracts, student aid and other funds from Washington, D.C.
The governor was reportedly angry about the university’s decision.
|Photo: Mercer Alliance|
|Assemblyman Reed Gusciora: “The university is chickening out”|
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Mercer County who was one of the primary sponsors of the medical marijuana bill, said “the university is chickening out” by not testing federal authorities’ willingness to grant a waiver.
State Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Linden), who was the other main sponsor, said Christie wanted too much control over the program, and that New Jersey would have no choice but to approve private marijuana growers.
New Jersey’s law is widely seen as possibly the most restrictive and least patient-friendly medical marijuana law in the nation, prohibiting cultivation by the patients themselves.
It allows doctors to authorize marijuana only for patients with terminal illness or a limited set of specific conditions, and limits each person to two ounces per month, compared with as much as 24 ounces in states like Washington and Oregon.
Gov. Christie, a Republican, has sought to make the law even more restrictive in the way it is carried out, raising concerns that he is more concern with making law enforcement’s job easier than with helping seriously ill patients.
Christie is now recommending that the state ask private growers to provide the marijuana instead, which was part of the original plan to begin with before Christie started screwing it up.
Christie’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, signed the medical marijuana bill into law earlier this year, on his last day in office.
Implementation of the law has been delayed until January 2011 to give state health officials time to work out the details.