New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will order state officials to quickly implement New Jersey's medical marijuana program, a move growers say could allow the drug to be sold to chronically ill patients by the end of the year, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Christie said the state health department should “move forward as expeditiously as possible,” lifting a three-month hold he imposed while waiting for federal law enforcement officials to tell him whether state workers or private growers would be vulnerable to arrest.
The green light from the administration means the six nonprofit organizations authorized to sell the marijuana will be told to get to work opening a store and begin growing as soon as possible. Christie had been waiting for the Obama administration to clarify a concern raised by other governors that state employees affiliated with the program could run the risk of arrest by federal law enforcement officials. Possessing and selling marijuana remains a federal crime, even though 16 states have enacted medical marijuana laws. A memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole on June 30 did not specifically answer the questions about immunity for state or private employees, said Christie, a former U.S. attorney, but “gave us some hints” as to whether federal authorities would scrutinize legitimate medical marijuana employees. He said he's betting they won't.
ED NOTE: For an in depth look at the fight over NJ’s medical marijuana program, read Julia Dahl’s feature “In the Weeds.”