New Jersey Attorney General’s Letter Seeking Guidance on Medical Marijuana Program Draws Criticism from Advocates

Press Release April 19, 2011
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243</p>

Trenton—A letter sent by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding New Jersey's fledgling medical marijuana program is drawing sharp criticism from medical marijuana supporters, including patients and families who advocated for the law.

Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of Drug Policy Alliance, expressed surprise that the legal status of the program would be raised as an issue at this late date. "The legislature worked on this bill for almost five years and it was thoroughly vetted legally.  It is clear that in New Jersey, just as in other states with medical marijuana laws, the state has the authority under state law to implement such a program.  The federal government retains the right to prosecute under federal law.  This isn't news.  The federal government has never exercised this authority against officials in any of the fifteen states that have medical marijuana laws."

Seriously ill patients who are desperately awaiting access to medical marijuana in New Jersey said that they fear that the administration is playing politics with the law and might use federal authority as an excuse not to implement the program.

Elise Segal, who suffers from multiple sclerosis said, "I was shocked and appalled when I learned of the Attorney General's ridiculous inquiry.  I've been suffering with severe pain and muscle spasms for longer than I can remember and have been desperately awaiting the start of New Jersey's medical marijuana program for over a year and now this!  I feel like myself and other sick and dying patients in this state are just pawns in a game of politics being played by the Christie Administration."

Don Pendley, President of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, expressed frustration at both state and federal authorities.  "This is just further evidence of the Christie Administration's effort to delay implementation of the medical marijuana law and the Obama Administration's disrespect of the authority of state government – assuming Eric Holder's response to New Jersey follows his advice to other "medical marijuana" states.  A truly progressive federal government would support experimentation and diversity at the state level, such as the law passed by the New Jersey legislature, which is among the toughest medical marijuana laws in the nation.  Instead, we have both a Democratic and Republican leader trying to seem tough on drugs at the expense of thousands of Americans who are living and dying in pain."

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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