New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken another swing at medical marijuana, which is legal in his state.
Christie, a Republican with eyes on the White House in 2016, is a longtime opponent of medical pot. After he took office in 2011, he actively stood in the way of an MMJ law enacted during the previous governor’s term.
As a result, New Jersey patients are languishing as a dysfunctional system tries to help them. Far fewer patients have enrolled than expected, and the same is true of the doctors allowed to prescribe cannabis. Patient advocates blame the problem on bureaucratic ineptitude and obstructionism.
Now Christie has come out with another slam and another promise to keep medical cannabis from working. On his regular radio show in June, the governor disparaged MMJ in his state, calling it a “front for legalization.”
Christie: Demand Is for Weed, Not Medical Weed
Christie claimed that the demand for pot in New Jersey has nothing to do with medicine. It’s all about drug abuse and legalization, he said.
“What there’s a huge demand for is marijuana, not medical marijuana,” Christie said. “Because when we run a medically based program, you don’t see the demand.”
Christie has said in the past that he would do everything in his power to stop the state from legalizing recreational pot while he serves as governor. There seems to be little momentum in that direction, yet a paranoid Christie has repeatedly and belligerently attacked his own state’s medical weed program and the people it serves.
“This program and all these other programs, in my mind, are a front for legalization,” he said. “Unless you have a strong governor and a strong administration that says, ‘Oh, medical marijuana? Absolutely. We are going to make it a medically based program.’ No demand there — or very little.”
Medical Marijuana Program in Bad Shape
MMJ was adopted in New Jersey in 2009, shortly before then-Gov. John Corzine left office. Corzine, a Democrat, was a supporter of medical marijuana.
New Jersey has three operating marijuana dispensaries, one in the southern part of the state, one in the central region, and one in the north. The first opened in 2012, when officials predicted the drug could treat tens of thousands of people. But the shops are struggling, and could close, because so few patients have enrolled.
As of June there were 2,342 patients signed up to receive medicinal cannabis. And fewer than 300 doctors, out of 21,000 in the state, have signed up to prescribe the drug. These low numbers threaten to undermine the entire MMJ industry in New Jersey.
The head of one of the three dispensaries, Rick Thompson, resigned this month, saying the industry was on the verge of collapse.
“It’s failing,” Thompson said before he resigned. “From a business standpoint and from a patient standpoint, it’s not successful. The governor says why change anything if they haven’t shown up? Is there really no demand, or is it so hard to get access that it is easier to buy it from the high school kid down the street?”