A key state senator says he now supports the idea of having the state's supply of medical marijuana initially grown by Rutgers University.
A NorthJersey.com report says that Democrat Nicholas Scutari is now working with the administration of Gov. Chris Christie to modify a law to put the system in place.
In January, lawmakers approved making New Jersey the 14th state to allow medical marijuana.
Under the law, nonprofit alternative treatment centers would grow and distribute the pot in limited quantities to registered patients who have specific conditions such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and AIDS.
Scutari initially had reservations about the plan to have Rutgers grow the medicinal pot and the state's teaching hospitals distribute it to qualified patients.
"This is not a bad way to go to get it moving quickly," Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden said in a report on NBCNewYork.com. Scutari is the main sponsor of the state's current medical marijuana law. He said he would not want the Rutgers' agricultural experiment station to have a permanent monopoly in growing legal medical cannabis.
Scutari said there could soon be a deal on the plan that would allow the administration to work on implementing the unprecedented system even before lawmakers vote on it. A vote could come in September.
Meanwhile, Robert Goodman, dean of the agriculture experiment station, said they do not want to become a producer of marijuana.
While the station develops crops, it sells only tomato seeds — and on a small scale. But it frequently licenses its breeds to be produced by commercial growers.
"To become the producer of the crop, that would be a completely new role for us," Goodman told the Associated Press. "In any crop, we would have reservations."
Regulations were to be in place by October. But lawmakers granted Christie, who supports the idea of medical marijuana, an extra three months to iron out the details on cultivation and distribution.
But detractors say using the university and hospitals would bring complications. It could delay getting suffering patients the relief they need as lawmakers reopen discussions about how the program would work. They also argue that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, creating added headaches for public institutions.
Chris Goldstein, a spokesman for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey, says employees could be at risk of arrest and hospitals and the university could lose federal funding.
The federal government wouldn't necessarily crack down, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Princeton, who is his chamber's main sponsor of medical marijuana legislation, told the Asbury Park Press. He said Rutgers and the hospitals could be protected by a pledge from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder not to break up medical marijuana operations that are authorized by state governments.