On July 26, 2011, the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times, urged New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to champion a sensible and humane system for the medical use of marijuana by New York citizens. This is a sharply different direction from that of the Obama Administration, as we reported in a July 21, 2011 post.
The editorial in what many regard as America's "newspaper of record" was prompted by the announcement from the Republican Governor of New Jersey and conservative darling, Chris Christie, that he was allowing that state's medical marijuana program to proceed.
New Jersey was the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana, by legislative action signed into law by former Democratic Governor John Corzine on his last day in office. Governor Christie's position during the campaign was that he would not have signed the law into effect.
New Jersey's law is one of the nation's strictest, in part because of the narrow scope of qualifying medical conditions and in part because of the regulations issued after Governor Christie took over. New Jersey also does not have the employment protections that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act contains.
The state was moving forward with a system in which marijuana would be available to people licensed to use it only at six treatment centers throughout the state when the flurry of letters from federal prosecutors hit. It was that flurry of letters that sent Arizona and our Governor Jan Brewer to federal court that caused Governor Christie to put New Jersey's program on hold and seek specific written guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year.
Governor Christie never got his federal guidance. Nevertheless, he decided to move forward based on his own informed judgment from seven years as a federal prosecutor. He said: "I don’t believe the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, given the narrow and medically based nature of our program will expend what are significantly lessening federal law enforcement resources in the context of the federal budget, on going after dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health or other state workers who are helping to implement this program."
The New York Times wants Democratic Governor Cuomo to follow Governor Christie's lead. Governor Cuomo is on record against medical marijuana but is now reviewing the issue. He should change his mind, according to the Gray Lady, because "there is no good reason to deprive patients with cancer or H.I.V. or Lou Gehrig's disease of the relief from pain or extreme nausea that could come from using marijuana."