I’m here today to announce that we are, I have instructed the Commissioner of Health to move forward as expeditiously as possible to implement the medical marijuana program in New Jersey as outlined in the regulatory scheme and the statutory scheme set up by the Legislature and by the Executive Branch.
In consultation with the Commissioner of Health, they will reach out, the Department of Health will reach out today to the awardees of the six alternative treatment centers and tell them to begin work immediately towards opening and beginning the distribution in accordance with the law of medicinal marijuana to those who are entitled to get it in the state of New Jersey under the statutory scheme and in consultation with physicians.
How long it’s going to take is something that we’ll probably know in the next week or two, when we get a response from the dispensaries about how quickly they can get up and running, but it is my judgment not only as Governor but I think almost more importantly as a former United States Attorney, that I don’t believe that the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, and I’m not speaking for them, I don’t have the authority to do that any longer, I don’t believe the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, given the narrow and medically based nature of our program will expend what are significantly lessening federal law enforcement resources in the context of the federal budget, on going after dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health or other state workers who are helping to implement this program.
They have too many other things I think to do, appropriately so, and while I have not gotten any indication, I want to make this clear, I have not spoken to the United States Attorney about this, and I’ve gotten no indication either directly or indirectly from US Attorney Fishman about what approach he may take. . . .
This is one of those decisions that’s not an easy one for me as Governor. I had to balance the benefit that will go to citizens in pain versus some potential risks to the folks that we’re authorizing as dispensaries and to state employees. But I believe based on my background in law enforcement, my reading of the deputy Attorney General’s memorandum, and the comments by the President of the United States, that it’s a risk worth taking in order to alleviate the pain that people are suffering here in the state.
So I’ve directed it to happen as soon as possible and as I said earlier based upon responses that we’ll be getting starting this week from the dispensary operators, we’ll be able to update you at a later date about exactly when we believe that this will be available to people in New Jersey who have lawfully obtained a right to get it. But you can be sure that we’ll be working and encouraging the dispensaries to get open as quickly as is practical, so that we can begin to deliver the type of relief to the citizens of our state that they need and deserve and that they’ll get it in a way that exposes them and those who are helping them, caregivers, the operators of the dispensary, and the citizens, and rather the employees of the Department of Health to the least amount of risk from a federal legal perspective.