New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie announced Tuesday that he would lift his suspension on implementing the state’s medical-marijuana program.
“We’re moving forward with the program as it was set up,” said Christie at a press conference. “I believe that the need to provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk we are taking in moving forward with the program.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed a bill into law that legalized marijuana in the state for those with certain medical conditions, such as HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis. But Christie blocked the implementation of the law after taking office in 2010, claiming it needed to be amended.
Christie’s announcement came in spite of threats from U.S. Attorneys (PDF) and a June 29th memorandum from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which stated the Justice Department was “committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States.”
The growth, sale and possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even for medical use.
“If Governor Christie can implement his state’s medical marijuana program in the face of recent attempts by the federal government to intimidate public officials, then states like Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington should be empowered to implement theirs as well,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group.
The governors of Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington have refused to implement medical marijuana laws due to threats of criminal prosecution by U.S. Attorneys.
“The State of Arizona has worked to follow the wishes of voters,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said in May after filing a lawsuit against the federal government over whether she can implement her state’s medical marijuana initiative.
“But I won’t stand aside while state employees and average Arizonans acting in good faith are unwittingly put at risk,” Brewer added. “In light of the explicit warnings on this issue offered by Arizona’s U.S. Attorney, as well as many other federal prosecutors, clarity and judicial direction are in order.”
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws that conflict with federal law.
Watch New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s press conference below: