NJ Senate Rejects Christie's Medical Marijuana Rules

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The New Jersey Senate has approved a resolution rejecting Gov. Chris Christie's proposed regulations on the state's medical marijuana program. Prior to the vote on Monday, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari said the governor's proposal was not in line with the intent of the law approved earlier this year.

"He's put forward a regulatory scheme which does not allow for a properly functioning marketplace, nor will it allow for an environment for sick people to get the medical marijuana at any time soon," he said.

The Senate voted 22 to 16 to reject the regulations. Critics said the rules were too restrictive. Chris Goldstein, of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana, objected to a proposed regulation that would have limited the level of one of the drug's components, THC, to a maximum of ten percent. "That's like saying that you can have Ibuprofen, but you can only have 100 milligrams instead of the 400 that you should usually get," Goldstein said. "Cutting the potency of THC would not be good for patients."

Goldstein said Monday's Senate vote sends a strong message to the administration. "The Assembly had already passed this resolution, and now the Senate has followed suit," he said. "At this point, the entire legislature has agreed that governor Christie's proposed rules are outside the intent of the law." The Assembly approved the resolution in November.

In January, New Jersey approved a law to become the 14th state in the country where residents can legally use marijuana for medical purposes. But with no agreement on a set of regulations governing the program, it has yet to move forward.

Earlier this month, Christie and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a key sponsor of the state's medicinal marijuana law, announced a compromise. Among other things, it would have allowed six alternative treatment centers throughout the state to grow and distribute the drug, but prohibit home delivery and satellite centers. Christie had originally wanted to split the centers, with four serving as dispensaries and only two serving as growers. But Scutari said that compromise had no bearing on Thursday's vote, since it was only reached with one lawmaker.

Monday's vote gives the Christie administration 30 days to rework the rules, or the legislature can take further action.