NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—During the September 16 Republican Presidential debate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed the issue of marijuana legalization along with three other candidates: Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina.
Of the foursome, Christie was the only candidate committed to enforcing the federal ban on marijuana, even in states that have already approved legalization, such as Colorado and Washington.
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it until January 17 of 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana as president of the United States,” Christie told an audience in Newport, New Hampshire this summer.
Christie has also called marijuana a "gateway drug" and says people who use it are "diseased." He said the legalization in Colorado "diminished the quality of life" and pledged never to legalize it in New Jersey.
In the September 16 debate, Christie repeated his pledge to put an end to legal, recreational marijuana use and followed his anti-legalization statement with the curious claim that he is “not against medical marijuana.”
Governor Christie’s predecessor, Jon Corzine, signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act into law on January 10, 2010, his last day in office before Christie took over.
The act made it legal for patients with certain severe physical ailments, such as cancer, terminal illness, and HIV/AIDS, to be prescribed marijuana for medical purposes, as well as giving the state health department the power to create regulations for the program.
Governor Christie, after being sworn into office, decided to move forward and implement the law in July 2011.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana policies are among the most restrictive in the nation, and families have been forced to leave the state because it did not meet medical needs of many children.
Currently, only nine medical conditions qualify patients for medical marijuana and less than 2,000 people have enrolled in the program.
The law Christie signed called for six medical marijuana treatment centers in the state: two in the north, two in central, and two in the south.
But four years after the implementation began, only three are operational: Woodbridge, Montclair, and Egg Harbor Township. A fourth in Bellmawr is scheduled to finally open in October 2015.
Patients are not allowed to grow marijuana at home, and the bill presents strict licensing regulations, making doctor participation very difficult.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana also remains the most expensive in the country, making it difficult for patients to come up with the necessary funds to actually be patients.
The restrictive nature of New Jersey's medical marijuana laws produces the exact consequence that Governor Christie has set out to avoid.
But Chrisite's slow and insufficient implementation of the Compassionate Use Act, as well as the strict restrictions in the law itself, have forcing many prospective patients to use recreationally to avoid the inconvenient and expensive process that is getting a prescription for medical pot in New Jersey.