Upper Freehold moves to block medical marijuana growing facility
In New Jersey's long road to becoming a medical marijuana state, it turns out that passing the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was just the beginning. Two years later, the controversy has moved from the Statehouse in Trenton into the halls of municipal complexes, where approved medical marijuana treatment centers have encountered local resistance. On Thursday, the five-person township committee for the small, rural town of Upper Freehold, in Monmouth County, gathered at Stonebridge Middle School, in Allentown, to enact a local law that would effectively ban a proposed medical marijuana growing center in their town. The law, which passed unanimously, prevents local approval for any applications that explicitly violate federal law -- which, of course, includes growing marijuana. An overwhelming majority of residents who turned out for Thursday night's meeting were there to express, in no uncertain terms, their desire to see the proposed facility, Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, run out of town.
Medical Marijuana in New Jersey: 'This Law Was Designed to Fail'
Rues Road—which winds through an idyllic and remote area of Upper Freehold Township, New Jersey, past lush farm fields and the occasional McMansion set back on a sprawling parcel of land—doesn't look much like a battlefield. But it's become ground zero in the fight over the state's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, in limbo for nearly two years since former Gov. Jon Corzine signed the bill on his last day of office in January 2010.
A pot farm wants to move into a property on Rues Road, residents are up-in-arms, and medical marijuana advocates say a tiny but adamant group of anti-weed activists is behind efforts to stall the act indefinitely. And while many eyes here have been focused on New Jersey's nascent medical marijuana program as a potential model for Pennsylvania to adopt, the only lesson that seems to be coming out of the Garden State is how to pass a law without ever actually implementing it.
In July, Gov. Chris Christie, who's made no bones about his disdain for the law, reluctantly announced that New Jersey was forging ahead with the delayed and highly regulated program because the federal government—which still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance with no medicinal value—assured him that state and local employees at facilities growing or dispensing the drug would not be prosecuted.
The announcement gave the green light to six nonprofit alternative treatment centers (ATCs) mandated by the act as the state's sole providers of medical marijuana—two ATCs each in South, Central and North Jersey—to find suitable locations for their operations, with the provision that they first had to get approval from local municipalities before setting up shop.
So far, that's proved difficult. In October, Compassionate Sciences ATC's proposed location in Maple Shade was rejected by the township's zoning board. The Compassionate Care Foundation ATC received the preliminary go-ahead for a site in Westampton, Burlington County, but was informed a few weeks ago that it now has to go before the township's Land Development Board early next year for approval.
But things have reached a fever pitch in Upper Freehold, where Breakwater ATC wants to set up its marijuana grow operation on a half-acre of land on one of two sites along Rues Road (they're also considering two other sites within a mile of Rues Road). Hundreds of outraged people packed a local school auditorium on Nov. 22 to express their concerns over a possible increase in danger and crime—armed thugs coming to their quiet town to steal the weed, marijuana customers smoking weed in the Breakwater parking lot then driving around stoned, etc.—as well as the stigma of being home to a pot farm. In the wake of that meeting, the Upper Freehold Township Committee is set to pass an ordinance on Dec. 15 that would ban any enterprise that violates federal law.
Despite Christie's public assurances that the feds will keep their noses out of pot farms throughout the state, that's still not good enough for Upper Freehold Mayor LoriSue Mount, an ardent Christie backer who sits on the five-person township committee and strongly supports the ordinance on principle. "It's not a decision about whether medical marijuana is right or wrong, or right in Upper Freehold Township or another town," she says, insisting that she's not necessarily personally opposed to the idea of medical marijuana for patients suffering from cancer and other debilitating diseases. "It's strictly that it's prohibited by federal law, and if we stop paying attention to the laws, where do we end up? It would be anarchy."
But Chris Goldstein, spokesman for the Coalition of Medical Marijuana New Jersey, says that's bogus. He believes Christie purposely delayed implementation of a law he personally despised under the guise of concerns about federal prosecution—which Goldstein says would be "remarkably unlikely"—as long as he could, and now the tactic is being employed on the local level.
"The very clear friction that's happening between state and federal law on this issue is making it easier for a minority opposition to hold back this law," Goldstein laments.
Noting that a Rutgers-Eagleton poll issued on Nov. 30 found that 86 percent of New Jerseyans support medical marijuana, Goldstein believes that just a handful of people are coordinating efforts across the state to stymie ATCs from getting the necessary municipal approvals.
"What you've got is sour-grapes opposition who lost the battle for the bill reorganizing opposition on the local level, in each of the places there's a land use hearing," says Goldstein, pointing to one foe in particular: 64-year-old Belvidere lawyer David Evans, head of the Drug Free Schools Coalition and a longtime anti-pot crusader.
Goldstein accuses Evans of using "reefer madness" scare tactics—through phone calls, e-mails and other means—to rile up locals in Upper Freehold, Maple Shade and elsewhere, as well as get in the ears of various committee members, zoning officials and others in charge of the ATC approval process. He says Evans or his close allies have "been spotted at many of these hearings," an assertion backed up by Chuck Kwiatkowski, 40, a fellow medicinal pot advocate who suffers from multiple sclerosis and says he smokes weed in lieu of 27 prescriptions (at a cost of several hundreds of dollars a month that he doesn't have) recommended by his doctor.
Kwiatkowski, who lives in North Jersey, says he traveled to the Nov. 22 meeting in Upper Freehold to support Breakwater because he figured Evans would be there. He says Evans wasn't there, but claims that some of his people (whom Kwiatkowski recognized from other hearings) were—heckling him and chanting slogans like "Up with hope, down with dope."
"They treated me like I was the devil, and I have MS," says Kwiatkowski.
Reached by phone at his Belvidere office, Evans says the accusations being leveled at him are ridiculous. He denies attending any meetings anywhere in the state relating to ATC approvals. He says he's spoken with one member of the Upper Freehold Township Committee (whose name he says he can't recall) "briefly on the phone" and "I may have talked to a council member in Montclair," where Greenleaf Compassion Center is trying to open a pot dispensary.
"I have not had an ongoing communication with any of these people," says Evans. "The only thing I've done was I've sent them the arguments why [medical marijuana] is illegal under federal law, and I've tried to show them news stories about what's been happening in other states and how local people are objecting to it and so forth."
Evans also denies that he's responsible for any kind of effort to stir up local residents in areas where ATCs are trying to lay down roots.
"What these people would like to do is blame this all on me instead of saying that there are people in the state that don't like this," he says. "It's a lot easier to make me into a bogeyman than accept the reality of what's really going on here."
Upper Freehold resident Kimberly Lima, a 40-year-old mother of two small boys, says she's spearheaded local opposition to Breakwater—personally obtaining more than 600 signatures for a petition against the ATC—mostly over concerns about her family's security. She insists she's never heard of Evans, and resents the suggestion that he's behind the furor.
"I find it so highly offensive that we would need an outside influence to tell us what we can do in our neighborhood," she fumes. "Most of the reason why we're so against Breakwater coming here is because we know our area. And we know how this is going to change the character of the area."
Evans says he's delighted by the opposition to Breakwater and the other ATCs. Anti-pot to the hilt, Evans cites numerous studies that claim marijuana is harmful, particularly to people suffering from cancer and HIV/AIDS. He says there’s no scientific basis for medical marijuana, and points out that smoked marijuana has never been approved as medicine by the Food and Drug Administration. Evans thinks the public has been hoodwinked by medical marijuana advocates whose real goal, he believes, is the legalization of recreational weed, which, he says, "would be a disaster."
"These medical marijuana people make very compassionate arguments and they bring in people in wheelchairs, and everybody says 'Ohhhh' and their hearts melt and they say, 'Give them whatever they want,'" says Evans, who also disputes the veracity of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
"If you ask, 'Are you in favor of giving marijuana to people who are dying and in pain?' then sure, everybody would say, 'Yeah.' But if you ask, 'Are you in favor of giving people a medicine that isn't safe or effective and hasn't been approved by the FDA?' then people would not be in favor of it."
Breakwater says that if the Upper Freehold ordinance is passed on Dec. 15, they'll challenge it in court. A statement issued by the company last week read, in part, "We will use every means at our disposal to enforce our right to own and operate a greenhouse facility that complies with existing zoning regulations...this course of action would be both expensive and regrettable for all parties involved."
In a subsequent phone conversation, a Breakwater representative reiterated the company's intention to make a stand in Upper Freehold rather than give up and seek an alternate site—as other ATCs have done—and endure similar struggles in other towns.
Goldstein says that if the state's medical marijuana program wasn't so over-regulated, and that home cultivation was allowed, the current mess wouldn't exist. Still, he believes Christie and members of the New Jersey Legislature could put a stop to all of the delays and maneuverings by publicly exerting pressure on municipalities to comply with the Act. But he says their silence speaks volumes.
"It's all politics—they can have the appearance of being compassionate, but at the same time they can know that on the ground they're never really going to have an operating program," says Goldstein, who says that most patients in New Jersey have given up hope that they'll ever be able to get their hands on legal medicinal marijuana.
"This program has been designed to fail."
N.J. Green-Lights Medical Marijuana Program as Calif.’s Goes Up in Smoke
John Farley thirteen.org
Nearly two years after it was legalized in New Jersey, lawmakers announced last week that the state’s medical marijuana program, the most restrictive in the country, would be fully functional sometime in 2012.
How high are the risks? Should New York be looking to its historically less-progressive neighbor as a model for effective medical marijuana policy?
Gov. Chris Christie had issued a surprise announcement in July that the state would move forward with its then-stalled medical marijuana program. But since then, federal prosecutors have done something even more surprising: They raided and seized property from medical marijuana growers and dispensaries in California, despite the Obama administration’s indications that they would not crack down on such facilities.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana policy has been in flux for months now. In 2010, the New Jersey State Senate passed the Compassionate Care Act, requiring the state to license six medical marijuana dispensaries. But even though 86 percent of New Jersey voters support medical marijuana, Christie put the program on hold while he awaited word from federal officials that New Jersey marijuana workers and doctors would not be prosecuted, reported the Star-Ledger.
Word never came, but the governor, a former federal prosecutor, felt that a memo from the U.S. Justice Department indicated the agency would stay true to President Barack Obama’s campaign promise in 2008 not to prosecute states that passed medical marijuana legislation, even though it violates federal law. The memo suggested that the federal government did not consider it an efficient use of time to enforce penalties on terminally ill patients seeking marijuana for medicinal reasons. In July, Christie gave medical marijuana the greenlight.
Then, in October, four U.S. attorneys in California announced a tough new agenda to shut down marijuana growers and dispensaries they said were violating the original intent of the state’s law, which was passed back in 1996, the New York Times reported. The federal prosecutors said many of the dispensaries were operating as part of a large-scale, for-profit drug operation, as opposed to dispensing medicine to ill patients. Raids, arrests and property seizures followed, along with job losses in California’s marijuana industry.
Since Christie’s announcement in July, there have been multiple setbacks for New Jersey’s pot program, however, none of them were caused by the federal government. New Jersey zoning boards rejected four of the six proposed grow sites and dispensary locations due to worries about weak oversight, acting in violation of federal law and of course residents’ overwhelming NIMBY fears, reported Yahoo News.
But on Nov. 29, Christie’s administration said the state debacles over dispensary and greenhouse locations had been smoothed out and that they were confident that the stringent laws governing the program would enable it to avoid federal prosecution. Though New Jersey will not make its original deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, the medical marijuana program will definitely be up and running in 2012, reported the Star-Ledger.
So what makes lawmakers think New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is a fairly safe bet? Consider the following facts about the state’s Compassionate Care Act:
- Sixteen states and Washington D.C. have medical marijuana laws, and New Jersey’s is the most restrictive, according to Politifact. Some other states, like California and Colorado, allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for a host of ailments, including psychological issues like anxiety, and even issue patients multiple prescriptions cards so that the patient’s friends or family can pick up their prescription for them — or, you know, for themselves. New Jersey limits prescriptions to patients with terminal illnesses or illnesses where conventional pain medication has failed, such as glaucoma and epilepsy. Furthermore, a doctor can only prescribe marijuana to a patient they’ve been seeing for over a year.
- This is a big one: New Jersey’s non-profit dispensaries are all licensed by the state, unlike in California, where they are not required to obtain a state license specifically to sell marijuana. “They’ve [federal prosecutors] never interfered with a dispensary licensed by a state,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of Drug Policy Alliance. “In California, the dispensaries are not state licensed. In Colorado, they are, and we haven’t seen any interference in Colorado.” Thus, you’re not likely to see dispensaries with giant neon pot signs out front, as is the case out West.
- The quantity and quality of pot that can be legally possessed is quite limited in New Jersey. A New Jersey patient can only receive 2 ounces of marijuana every 30 days, unlike in California, where patients can buy bundles of the stuff. Furthermore, New Jersey is the first state to limit the potency of medical marijuana, in this case to 10 percent. To put that in perspective, the average marijuana potency in the United States is just over 10 percent. In California, where pot growing in Humboldt County is basically an artisan trade, potency levels reach upwards of 30 percent.
- To the disappointment of medical marijuana activists, who hoped a doctor would regulate the program, Christie recently appointed a 26-year police veteran to oversee the industry.
If New Jersey’s program manages to avoid becoming as leniently regulated as it is in California, it’s possible that New York could look to its neighbor as a model. There’s currently a bill in the New York State Senate, sponsored by Senator Tom Duane, which is similar to New Jersey’s. In November, the New York City Council passed a resolution supporting the bill’s passage, reported AM New York. The bill is currently being reviewed by the Committee on Health. Would Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign it into law?
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In 2010, Cuomo took a staunch stance against medical marijuana. However, immediately after Christie put his support behind New Jersey’s program, Cuomo changed his tune.
“We’re looking at both sides of the issue…and we’re reviewing it, but we don’t have a final position,” said Cuomo.
It’s unclear where the legislature and Cuomo stand, but at a time when the state is making increasingly heavy budget cuts and experimenting with new capital funding models, government might be catching a strong whiff of the massive tax incentives the industry offers.
In California, medical marijuana is a $1.5 billion a year industry, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. California tax regulators estimate the state receives somewhere between $78 and 105 million in sales taxes annually, and a new ruling that clarifies dispensaries are not tax-exempt businesses is likely to cause those revenues to surge, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Medical marijuana dispensary's application to occupy Montclair storefront nears approval
Published: Tuesday, November 15
Finally! Something worth #OCCUPYING! -UA
MONTCLAIR — All that stands in the way of a medical marijuana dispensary in Montclair from planting its first crop is final approval from the state health department, the dispensary's CEO said today.
The Montclair Zoning Board approved an application from the Greenleaf Compassion Center to occupy a storefront on Bloomfield Avenue about two weeks ago, Greenleaf's Chief Executive Officer Joseph Stevens said. Last night, he and his partners introduced themselves and their business plan to the Township Council.
"We're ready to go from a municipal standpoint. If we were to get a permit tomorrow, we could start right away growing patients medicine,'' Stevens said. Growing marijuana and preparing it for sale would take about four months, he said.
But state officials from the Department of Health and Senior Services have not yet issued a final permit allowing Greenleaf and five other nonprofits to begin cultivating the drug, despite informing them in March they were selected from a pool of 37 applicants.
"The timetable for each Alternative Treatment Center has many variables,'' state health department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said. "Chief among them is the municipal approval processes that the ATCs are confronting in the respective localities. ... The reality is that implementing a program to grow and dispense a controlled dangerous substance is complex with unique challenges."
Montclair is the first of six medical marijuana dispensaries plan to win municipal approval. The Maple Share Zoning Board last month rejected an application from Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center to open a dispensary in town.
The dispensary in Montclair is slated to open on Bloomfield Avenue between Park Avenue and North Fullerton Street. The 1,800-square-foot space was occupied by The Inner Eye, a store that sold rolling papers and tobacco.
The story was first reported in The Montclair Times today.
Another north Jersey community has also given zoning board approval to house the growing operation, Stevens said, declining to identify the north Jersey community for security reasons.
"We receive roughly 10 to 30 phone calls a day from potential patients,'' asking when the drug will be available, Stevens said. Based on public response, Greenleaf expects to serve about 500 to 1,000 patients within the first year — much higher than the 300 or so patients they anticipated when the applied for a permit, he added.
Check Up: Temple scientists explore marijuana derivative without the high
a medical-marijuana program with stricter controls is getting under way in New Jersey.
Now, scientists at Temple University are exploring a less controversial option: providing at least one of the purported medical benefits of pot without the high.
They are looking at the properties of a marijuana extract called cannabidiol, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relief properties but no psychoactive effects.
In a study using lab mice, the compound showed promise in preventing the kind of neuropathic pain that can result from the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (sold as Taxol, among other brands).
Among mice that were given the chemo drug, those that also received cannabidiol were much less sensitive to pain than mice that received only chemo.
The researchers gauged the rodents' sensitivity with two tests that normally get little reaction from drug-free mice, but cause mild pain in mice on chemo.
They administered acetone to the animals' paws, which results in a cold sensation as the liquid evaporates. The scientists also prodded the paws with flexible filaments, and recorded how much pressure they had to apply before the animals pulled their paws back.
Chemo mice that had been dosed with cannabidiol responded with near-normal sensitivity, said Sara Jane Ward, a research assistant professor at Temple's School of Pharmacy.
"From what we've seen so far, it's almost a complete prevention of the onset of the neuropathic pain," said Ward, lead author of the study in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
The scientists did not test the drug's ability to prevent nausea - a common use for medical marijuana. But cannabidiol has shown additional promise: Scientists have found that it can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in animals.
Still unclear is how the drug works in the body.
That has not stopped other scientists from testing it as a treatment for a diverse group of ills ranging from schizophrenia to Crohn's disease. No high required.
- Tom Avril
Looking ahead to medical marijuana dispensing
Since Gov. Chris Christie gave the nod for New Jersey to become the 14th state to approve medical marijuana, six approved dispensaries are set to open by the end of the year. The one serving the South Bergen area will be in Secaucus.
But the move didn’t come easy. Christie stalled on the program until receiving assurance that dispensers wouldn’t be prosecuted under federal drug statutes. Although the sale, dispensing, growing and smoking of medical marijuana is legal in 14 states, it is not under federal law, leading to confusion between local and federal authorities. According to a statement from the Justice Department, small, focused state marijuana programs would not be a top priority for law enforcement.
"It is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregiver," the press release reads.
New Jersey’s marijuana program is considered the strictest in the nation. Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) will be responsible for growing and dispensing medical marijuana. Patients can get a maximum of a two-ounce supply every 30 days. The active ingredient, THC, is limited to 10 percent maximum. Health insurance providers do not cover the cost. There is a $200 registration fee (good for two years) for physicians and patients. A $20 fee is reserved for individuals under state and federal assistance. The physician must register with the state and attest that the patient is undergoing treatment for an active, debilitating medical condition, and may benefit from medicinal marijuana use to relieve symptoms. The physician must have an ongoing responsibility for the patient’s care. Physicians will provide patients with codes so they can register either online or on a paper application.
The following conditions qualify a patient for medicinal marijuana: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Terminal illness also qualifies if the physician determines the patient has fewer than 12 months to live. The following conditions qualify if they are resistant to conventional medical therapy: seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity or glaucoma.
The following conditions qualify if severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia, or wasting syndrome results from the condition or its treatment: AIDS, HIV positive status or cancer. If a debilitating condition is not on the list, patients can file a petition with the program once a year, according to the state. New Jersey lawmakers have also included a provision that will allow the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to review diseases and conditions periodically and add new ones.
So far, 95 physicians have registered to participate in the program. The largest number of doctors that have registered are the 22 from Bergen County. Rutherford internist Dr. David Isralowitz is not one of them, despite being the founding director of Hackensack University Medical Center’s hospice program. He notes that although evidence shows that medicinal marijuana can be effective, the treatment should be monitored.
"Medical marijuana can be an effective therapy for nausea, lack of appetite and pain related to cancer and chemotherapy," Isralowitz said. "Obviously, it needs to be used in appropriate clinical settings, but that applies to prescribing of all legally controlled medications, from small doses of anti-anxiety medication like Xanax to injections of morphine to control severe pain."
The DHSS is not releasing the names of physicians authorized to prescribe medical marijuana until the list is complete and verified.
"We are still working on a program implementation and there are several steps in the process. The Department of Health has reached out to the Alternative Treatment Centers [dispensaries] to get an update on their progress. The ATCs are gearing up to get their programs operational—locating property for their operations and dealing with other critical issues like security. At least some of the ATCs are expected to be operating by the end of year," said DHSS spokesperson Dawn Thomas.
Gov. Chafee.....you should have been the first one......-UA
Obama administration tells N.J. to keep medical marijuana program small and controlled
Susan K. Livio/Statehouse Bureau 6/30 nj.com
This whole thing is getting more and more confusing....Doesn't the gov there have a past with the DEA? Anyone in Jersey out there?.....-UA
TRENTON — State medical marijuana programs and the people who work for them are not likely to run afoul of federal law if they keep their operations small and controlled, and don't allow growers to create "industrial marijuana cultivation centers,'' according to an eagerly-awaited letter from the Obama administration.
The letter, obtained by The Star-Ledger this evening, comes more than two months after state Attorney General Paula Dow asked the Obama administration whether New Jersey's future medical marijuana program could violate federal law.
Gov. Chris Christie has said he would delay the program until the federal government assures him it won't prosecute anyone employed by the program. Possession and distribution of marijuana is a federal crime, even though 16 states have passed laws making it available to select patients.
In 2009, the Obama administration issued a memo saying it would not devote law enforcement time and money to arresting and prosecuting people involved in legitimate medical marijuana activities. But subsequent memos issued in April seemed to suggest federal law enforcement was not willing to give a blanket immunity to such programs.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman sent the letter to Dow this evening. A spokesman for Dow could not immediately be reached for comment.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole, in a letter addressed to every state attorney general, reaffirmed "it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen ... and their caregivers.''
But the large-scale growing and scaling activity seen in some states troubles the Obama administration, according to Cole's letter.
"There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution, and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes,'' according to the letter. "For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple, large-scale, privately operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.''
The earlier memo "never intended to shield such activities from federal law enforcement and prosecution, even when these activities purport to comply with state law,'' according to the letter.
There are six approved alternative treatment centers operators in New Jersey — the nonprofit companies that will grow and sell the drug — that are preparing to launch their operations sometime this summer.
Roseanne Scotti of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey said her reading of 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 under the purview of federal law enforcement. That is not what is planned for New Jersey.''
"I would implore Governor Christie, beg Gov. Christie to move forward with this program with all possible speed. The people we represent are on the phone to us crying. They do not have a hangnail. They have diseases like ALS, which is the worst disease in the world," Scotti said.
In an appearance on the "On the Line" call-in show broadcast on PBS stations on June 16, the governor said he would delay the program until he got a clear indication whether New Jersey people working in and using the program would get into trouble. "Until I get that assurance, I cannot ask people to do things that they might get prosecuted by federal prosecutors."
"What happens if they get arrested and I ordered them to do it? That's wrong," Christie said.
The confusion arose in April, after the Washington governor and Oakland city officials asked the Obama administration whether federal law enforcement officials would target their legitimate medical marijuana programs.
The Justice Department replied by repeating earlier assertions that patients legally using a program would not be targeted. But it stressed no one would get a blanket immunity.
"We maintain the authority to enforce the Controlled Substance Act vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law," according to the Justice departments letter to California and Oakland.
Dow sought clarification on what Holder's letter meant.
"As the state's chief legal adviser to all of the departments in the Executive Branch, many of which are participating in carrying out the medical marijuana legislation, it is critical that I properly advise them as to the potential criminal and civil ramifications of their actions in carrying out their duties," according to Dow's April letter. "Accordingly, I ask that you provide me with clear guidance as to the enforcement position of the Department of Justice relative to New Jersey's medical marijuana legislation and the scope of the entities and individuals who may be subject to civil suit or criminal prosecution."
Christie has made no secret he does not believe the law New Jersey enacted before he took office is restrictive enough to prevent the program from being abused by recreational marijuana users.
The law's proponents argue New Jersey's law is the most restrictive in the country, and Christie's request for guidance was another way to delay the program.
Medical marijuana laws have passed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.