Christie says medical marijuana programs are ‘a front for legalization’

Following reports that New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is suffering from low enrollment, Gov. Chris Christie called the program and similar programs across the U.S. “a front for legalization.”

New Jersey passed its medical marijuana law in 2009, and former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, signed it just before Christie, a Republican, took office. The first dispensary opened in December 2012, with predictions that the drug could help tens of thousands of patients in the state with severe or painful illnesses. But The Star-Ledger reported on Sunday that only 2,342 patients have signed up for the program.  And last week, the president and chief executive of Compassionate Care Foundation, Inc. of Egg Harbor Township — one of the state’s three medical marijuana dispensaries — announced he had quit because he couldn’t keep working for no pay in a struggling industry.   Christie said it’s clear there is not a demand for medical pot.

“What there’s a huge demand for is marijuana. Not medical marijuana,” he said Monday night on his monthly radio show on 101.5-FM. “Because when we run a medically based program, you don’t see the demand.”

Some lawmakers, dispensary operators, and patients blame the low enrollment on the program’s strict rules, high costs, the small amount of doctors willing to recommend patients, and Christie’s lack of involvement in enhancing participation.  “There is so much reticence on the administration’s part, I don’t know how you break that logjam,” state Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of the lead sponsors of the law. “All they have to do is open their eyes.”

But Christie said the program itself is suspect, suggesting that some people are using it not just to help sick patients but as path for all marijuana use to become legalized.

“What did these folks say?” the governor said Monday. “They weren’t making enough money. You know, if this was a medical program, what’s everybody worried about making money for?  “This is a fallacy,” he added. “This program and all these other programs, in my mind, are a front for legalization. Unless you have a strong governor and a strong administration that says, ‘Oh, medical marijuana? Absolutely. We are going to make it a medically based program.’ No demand there — or very little.”

Christie has repeatedly said that while he will administer the medical marijuana program by law, he will never support the legalization of recreational pot use in New Jersey while he is governor. He has said that would send the wrong message to children.

“We are following the law,” the governor said Monday. “And we are following a medically based program. But I am not going to allow de-facto legalization of marijuana in this

state or regular legalization of marijuana in this state by statute. It’s not going to happen on my watch.”


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