Governor Christie Proposes Doubling Funding For Medical Marijuana [AUDIO]
While New Jersey still has just one medical marijuana dispensary where eligible patients can get the drug they need to ease the symptoms of their illness, critics are bashing Governor Chris Christie, claiming he's dragging his feet on the program.
The Governor's proposed budget actually calls for doubling funding for the program from roughly $800,000 to about $1.6 million, but that doesn't necessarily mean more treatment centers will immediately be opening up.
Testifying before the State Senate Budget Committee yesterday, Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd was asked to give a status update on the Garden State's medical marijuana program.
"The over-arching goal of the medicinal marijuana program is to provide safe marijuana to qualifying patients as outlined in the enabling statute," explains O'Dowd. "We also want to provide safety and security for the alternative treatment centers that are the dispensing and growing entities across the state of New Jersey."
Protecting towns that have chosen to host dispensaries is vital says O'Dowd. She also explains that while New Jersey has passed a law allowing medical marijuana the federal government has not. O'Dowd says there are a couple of issues with which the State continues to deal.
"The two most significant challenges that we have seen in the implementation of this program have been, one; the lack of local support for hosting in these communities," explains O'Dowd. "I would say the second most difficult challenge has been; how do you build this program that will be able to withstand federal scrutiny in light of what we have seen in terms of federal actions the country."
One of the long-time proponents of the medical marijuana program is State Senate Democratic Leader Loretta Weinberg. She's not happy with the pace of progress.
"This has been a very long and slow program to implement," says Weinberg. "Obviously, this has been a very long and arduous process."
A medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor is just waiting for building inspection according to O'Dowd and three other centers have submitted various stages of paperwork with the state.