State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a prime sponsor of legislation that legalized medical marijuana in New Jersey, Wednesday called a request by Attorney General Paula Dow for guidance on the legality of the program a “stall tactic by the administration.”
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Dow asked for guidance on how the feds will respond to the program, which remains illegal under federal law. The request was sent in response to letters from U.S. Attorneys in Washington State and California indicating federal law enforcement officials can and will prosecute dispensers of the drug regardless of its legality under state law.
Earlier this month the state named the six licensed dispensaries of the drug and the program is set to move forward later this year.
“Conflicting federal laws have always been a concern when it comes to state medical marijuana programs, in New Jersey and elsewhere. However, more than a dozen states currently permit their operation and no employee acting within state guidelines has ever been prosecuted for carrying out their duties associated with such a program,” Scutari said. “Frankly, we know where the federal government stands on marijuana. Asking the U.S. Attorney General to confirm their position appears to be merely another stall tactic by this administration. If the Governor has no intention of moving forward with our medical marijuana program, for the sake of the patients awaiting relief, he should just come clean.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice said the agency remains focused on bringing drug traffickers and dealers who use legal medical marijuana as a pretense to conduct illegal activity to justice and not on prosecuting patients using marijuana for health reasons.
“We are reviewing the letter sent by Attorney General Dow,” said DOJ Spokeswoman Jessica Smith. “The Department has remained consistent in its focus on enforcement and investigative activities involving marijuana on significant drug traffickers, not on individual patients with cancer or other serious diseases. We have made clear that we are not going to look the other way while these drug-trafficking organizations attempt to shield their illegal efforts from investigation and prosecution through the pretense that they are medical dispensaries.”