The medical-marijuana market, which is legal in 14 states and under consideration in at least 12 others, may benefit sick people. But it has proved a headache for regulators. Unlicensed dispensaries, crooked doctors, and fake medical-need cases have plagued early adopters like Colorado and California. For states that want the benefits of medicinal weed without the threat of a freewheeling pot culture, New Jersey may have an answer: state control.
Gov. Chris Christie recently approved a law allowing prescription marijuana. But he has put it on hold while he explores making Rutgers University the sole grower, and state-approved hospitals the sole suppliers. The first-of-its-kind idea has drawn fire from patient advocates, who worry that an official monopoly would limit both the variety of herb and the number of outlets, making it harder for people to fill their doctor’s orders. But as Colorado and California struggle to rein in their markets retroactively, the New Jersey model may emerge as a politically attractive middle ground—a way for lawmakers to look cool but not soft. The state’s example could catch on, says Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, “If we do this right.”