A letter from the U.S. Justice Department says New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is not likely to violate any federal laws if it is kept small, but it offers no guarantees. And that is what Governor Chris Christie wants.
The Justice Department released a memo last week saying that dispensaries and licensed marijuana growers in states with medical marijuana laws may face prosecution for violating federal drug laws.
Christie has been looking for assurances that state employees would not be prosecuted before implementing the program. Spokesman Michael Drewniak, says the governor sent a letter to State Attorney General Paula Dow seeking advice and is still awaiting a response.
According to NJ.com, the Obama administration said in a 2009 memo that going after medical marijuana users and dispensaries would not be a priority for federal law enforcement.
According to philly.com, Deputy U.S. Attorney James Cole’s letter said within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered legislation to authorize multiple privately operated industrial marijuana-growing centers, some projecting millions of dollars in revenue.
"Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling, or distributing marijuana, and facilitators of such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act," wrote Cole. New Jersey, along with 15 other states and the District of Columbia, has legalized medical marijuana use.
Roseanne Scotti of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey said she believes the letter suggests New Jersey workers and the program itself are safe. "This is laying out explicitly who is at risk,’’ Scotti said. "If you are planning on growing tens of thousands of plants and making millions of dollars, you are going to be watched by federal law enforcement. That is not planned for New Jersey.”
The Justice Department has begun toughening up its position as more states open medical marijuana facilities. Since February, 10 U.S. Attorney's Offices said they have the authority to prosecute dispensaries and licensed growers in those states with medical marijuana laws.
Advocates say Christie, a former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, knows federal authorities would never give blanket assurance that they won't prosecute a hypothetical case later.
According to an Associated Press report on seattlepi.com, bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, said, "He knows they are not going to pick on the strictest law in the country."
And sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari said that if he doesn't hear from the governor soon, he'll send him an official request to take a position. Scutari said, "Christie sent this letter looking for guidance so he wouldn't have to do anything."