Former federal prosecutor and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is holding up his state’s medical marijuana program, worried, he says, about federal prosecutors.
While appearing on the call-in show “On the Line,” Thursday, Christie said he is worried that if the marijuana law is implemented in the state, the Justice Department could still prosecute those following state law as violators of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“What happens if they get arrested and I ordered them to do it? That’s wrong,” Christie said.
Christie’s office has sent two letters to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for assurances of no federal prosecutions for those working in the state-approved medical marijuana business. He sent copies of the letters to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Holder said earlier this month that the DOJ would clarify its medical marijuana stance, but state officials are still waiting for it to arrive. DOJ spokeswoman Jessica Smith said in an email Friday that: “The Department has received the letters and is currently reviewing and formulating a response, which will be offered in short order.”
Christie’s request comes at a time of uncertainty regarding DOJ policy towards medical marijuana. A 2009 memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to all U.S. Attorneys stated that prosecutions of medical marijuana, when the individuals involved are clearly in compliance with state law, are “unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.” But the memo still left U.S. Attorneys the power and prosecutorial discretion to target anyone who was in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, which technically includes everyone involved in growing, selling or using medical marijuana.
And in the wake of DEA raids of Montana marijuana dispensaries earlier this year and warning letters from U.S. Attorneys reminding state officials that medical marijuana is still in violation of federal law, several states are seeking the same kind of clarity that Christie wants from the DOJ.