Murphy Orders Broader Access to New Jersey's Medical-Pot Program

(Bloomberg) -- Governor Phil Murphy ordered broader access to medical marijuana in New Jersey, saying roadblocks by his predecessor Chris Christie had stifled patients’ relief.

Murphy, a Democrat who took office on Jan. 16, authorized a review of additional conditions that may qualify for marijuana therapy.

“Other states leaped past us,” Murphy, 60, said of marijuana policy. “Politics replaced compassion and care.”

Christie, a two-term Republican, inherited New Jersey’s medical-marijuana program from his Democratic predecessor, Jon Corzine, who signed the measure on his last day in office in January 2010. A former federal prosecutor, Christie delayed the program almost 18 months as he tightened restrictions and got guidance on whether state workers implementing it could be charged with breaking U.S. law. The first dispensary opened in 2012.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Murphy said New Jersey’s medical-marijuana law is antiquated, with dispensaries that are restricted to one location and prescribing physicians who are burdened with excessive continuing-education requirements. He pointed to one advocate in the Trenton audience who must distill oil from the plant’s flower on her own, while other states allow it to be purchased. Home delivery and some edible forms also are out of reach for patients, he said.

Murphy has also pledged to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey. At the federal level, Attorney General Jeff Session is seeking to crack down on pot while lawmakers from both parties, including New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker, are pushing legislation that would do the opposite.

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