Pubdate: Sun, 28 Nov 2010
Source: Daily Record, The (Parsippany, NJ)
Copyright: 2010 The Daily Record
Author: Bob Jordan
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


TRENTON -- Gov. Chris Christie said he will fight to prevent his 
administration's proposed medical marijuana regulations from going up 
in smoke, despite pressure from state lawmakers to make changes.

The governor said he fears watering down the rules would essentially 
create "a de facto legalization of marijuana" in New Jersey.

Changes here could lead to duplicating flawed medical marijuana 
systems in place in California and Colorado, Christie said during a 
press conference on Tuesday. There are currently a total of 13 states 
that allow medical pot.

"We're not going to have a head shop in every town and quack doctors 
writing prescriptions for people with headaches to get marijuana," 
Christie said. "That's not going to happen on my watch."

In elections earlier this month, South Dakota voters rejected for the 
second time a measure to legalize marijuana for medical use, but a 
similar referendum was approved by a narrow margin in Arizona.

Oregon voters shot down expanding their state's program to create a 
network of licensed nonprofit dispensaries.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

New Jersey rolled out its yet-to-start program with legislation 
nearly a year ago and former Gov. Jon Corzine signed the bill into 
law a day before Christie took office in January.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney, said he has seen first-hand the 
dangers of drug abuse.

"I'm not doing it," Christie said of easing restrictions. "I've seen 
too much in my previous career of what can happen when drugs become 
that prevalent."

Christie said he has no problem with allowing for the "compassionate 
relief of pain for those patients who can find relief through no 
other legal means."

"I'm for them getting it from doctors who've been treating them all 
along, not from doctors parachuted into the situation with a 
profit-making motive like we've seen happen in California and 
Colorado," he said.

On Monday, the state Assembly voted 48-22 to require a rewrite of the 
policy that will be followed when New Jersey starts its program, 
expected to happen in 2011.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, said the 
Christie administration didn't follow the intent of the new law by 
limiting the number of illnesses that would qualify for the treatment 
and by capping the strength of the marijuana.

Gusciora said, "We need to make it clear that the regulations are a 
little too strict. We need the regulations streamlined so we can put 
compassionate back into the title of the law."

The law is known as the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical 
Marijuana Act. The Christie administration wants to license two 
marijuana growers and four distribution centers. But the law called 
for an initial six nonprofit grower-sellers to open, in sites 
throughout the state.

"It's going to be difficult for someone in Warren County to have to 
go to Elizabeth, or someone from Penns Grove who will be expected to 
go to Atlantic City,' Gusciora said.

State Senate leaders are planning a vote on the matter possibly as 
soon as Dec. 9. Senate leaders canceled their vote on Monday because 
of the absences of Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and Sen. Jennifer 
Beck, R-Monmouth, both of whom are being counted on to push for a rewrite.

If the Senate also approves the resolution, the administration would 
have 30 days to amend or withdraw its rules. Either house of the 
Legislature can hold a public hearing on the invalidation of the 
proposed rules if the administration fails to act.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom