Chris Christie Slams Medical Marijuana, Calls It a Front For Legalization

Following reports of low enrollment in the Garden State’s medical marijuana program, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dismissed the program as "a front for legalization.”

The state passed medical marijuana legislation in 2009 before Christie was governor. Then Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democat, signed the bill allowing for limited medical marijuana therapies just before leaving office. However, the first medical marijuana dispensary did not open in New Jersey until late 2012, well into Christie's administration. It was assumed that tens of thousands of patients would purchase medical marijuana from the state’s dispensaries, but the New Jersey Star-Ledger is reporting that only 2,342 patients have used the program to date.

Last week, it was reported that the CEO of one of the dispensaries, Compassionate Care Foundation (one of three in the state), resigned because the company was struggling and he had been working without pay.

Christie pointed to this news, saying that advocates have been unable to produce evidence that demonstrates a large enough demand for medical marijuana

"There's a huge demand for is marijuana. Not medical marijuana," Christie said on his monthly radio broadcast earlier this week. "Because when we run a medically based program, you don't see the demand."

But patients, medical marijuana advocates and lawmakers say that New Jersey’s laws are to blame for the low enrollment. They point to strict regulations, outrageous costs and few medical professional willing to write prescriptions in the state. They say Christie's lack of involvement in enhancing participation is also partially to blame for low enrollment in the program.

Christie said that the medical marijuana program is not being used only to help sick patients, as it was intended, but as a political tool to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. He chided the dispensary owners: "If this was a medical program, what's everybody worried about making money for?”

"This program and all these other programs, in my mind, are a front for legalization,” he insisted. 

These comments mark a shift back to the right for Christie, who earlier this year seemed uncharacteristically open to expanding medical marijuana's scope and offerings in the state. In April, he said he would be open to signing legislation to legalize edible marijuana for patients 18 years and older at a town hall meeting in Sayreville.

"If there becomes a large adult population that needs this type of edible [marijuana], I'll consider it," CNN reported Christie as saying in an exchange with a pediatric nurse with a 14-year-old son suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. The nurse was worried that her son, who benefits from edible marijuana, would not be able to use it to ease his symptoms after his 18th birthday.

Last year, Christie nixed the possibility of expanding the program when he voiced his opposition to proposed legislation that would allow New Jersey residents to consume medical marijuana purchased legally in another state.

"See this is what happens,” said Christie about the measure in a December press conference. “Every time you sign one expansion, then the advocates will come back and ask for another one.”

"Here's what the advocates want,” he continued. “They want legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. It will not happen on my watch, ever. I am done expanding the medical marijuana program under any circumstances. So we're done."

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