Health commissioner assures lawmakers medical marijuana program will take off

TRENTON – A day after Gov. Chris Christie said the state is making progress on getting medical marijuana-qualified patients, the commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services gave lawmakers further assurance that the program is on track to implementation.

Commissioner Mary O’Dowd discussed the state’s medical marijuana program in her opening remarks to lawmakers during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing this morning. In her testimony, O’Dowd said the agency has made significant progress, though she gave scant details regarding when the medical marijuana program will fully take off.

“The department is committed to ensuring that medicinal marijuana is safely and securely available to patients as quickly as possible,” O’Dowd said in her testimony. “Our goal is to implement a program that allows qualified patients to obtain marijuana in a timely, safe and secure manner.”

Christie said Tuesday that the state was committed to fully implementing the program once appropriate safeguards are in place. The governor said the program’s delay is the result of the Legislature and his predecessor’s failure to implement security measures when the bill was passed and signed into law.

The governor’s proposed budget includes $784,000 to support the staffing and operation of the program, O’Dowd said.

“I assure you that the department has been, and continues to be, committed to implementing this program and I believe we have struck an appropriate balance between public safety and access for qualified patients,” she said.



Health commissioner assures lawmakers medical marijuana program will take off