New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced that his state is ready to move ahead with a controversial medical marijuana program that he had previously halted in fear of attracting federal prosecution.
After reviewing a memo from the U.S. Justice Department, Christie said he was confident that state-sanctioned growers and distributors participating in the program would not be risking criminal prosecution.
He told a room of reporters Tuesday that he has ordered New Jersey's Department of Health to reach out to the six approved alternative treatment centers to "begin working immediately" to distribute medical marijuana to those who are entitled to it in the state.
The governor was initially cautious about implementing the law because he wanted to "provide compassionate treatment to people who are suffering in a way that will not expose them, the operators of our dispensaries, or their employees of the state of New Jersey to criminal liability."
The memo Christie referred to is signed by Deputy U.S. Attorney James Cole and was made public July 29. Christie said it "gave us some hints" about who would potentially be at risk of violating federal drug laws.
The memo, which did not explicitly address the governor's concerns, stated that President Obama's administration is wary of "an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes."
Christie said that, in addition to "hints" given in the memo, his experience serving as New Jersey's U.S. attorney convinced him that "there's a lot of other things that will be more important as long as the dispensaries operate within the law."
The law, entitled the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," was passed last year as the state's former governor, Jon Corzine, was leaving office. The law was delayed as legislatures tried to hammer out regulatory details.
Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana.
The legalization of medical marijuana has been a hot-button issue for some Christians who consider using the drug a violation of their faith.
Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Association, believes medical marijuana is "unnecessary" and that legalizing it worsens drug problems.
He told The Christian Post that believers should be at the forefront of the fight against legalization of marijuana for medical uses.
"We should be talking, we should be good citizens, we should be standing up for the greater good and marijuana is not the greater good," he said.