Christie, Gusciora Reach Deal on Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced an agreement with Assemblyman Reed Gusciora over the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The deal allows six alternative treatment centers to grow and distribute the drug. Christie had originally wanted four centers to serve as dispensaries and only two to serve as growers. As part of the deal, satellite locations and home delivery of marijuana will not be permitted under the state's program, which is administered by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Gusciora, a key sponsor of the state's medicinal marijuana law, said he's satisfied with the compromise. "The alternative treatment centers will be able to be fully functional within six months, and anything else could be done down the line with further study by the department," he said.

Earlier this year, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana for treatment of serious health conditions, including terminal cancer and multiple sclerosis. All treatment with medical marijuana requires certification by the patient's physician through a state registry. For certain conditions, the patient must prove that he or she has tried every other conventional medical treatment for the condition. The law also restricts the amount of marijuana per patient to two ounces each 30-day period.

Doctor Poonam Alaigh, New Jersey's health commissioner, said the new agreement would allow the state to move forward with its timeline to make medical marijuana available by the summer. "As a physician, my primary concern has always been to ensure that the compassionate use of marijuana is really available to those patients who need it and who qualify based on those clinical conditions," she said. Alaigh also noted that a primary component of the law has always been ensuring a strong relationship between doctors and patients, including full medical evaluation, "before they can recommend the use of medicinal marijuana."

"Working together, we have come to an agreement that will prevent further delay to patients who need relief from the symptoms of debilitating illnesses," Christie said in a statement. "At the same time, we are protecting the interests of all residents of the state of New Jersey by preventing some of the abuses we have seen in other states."