New Jersey Democratic governor candidate Phil Murphy claps while talking to supporters during a primary election watch party June 6, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (Julio Cortez, Associated Press)

N.J. medical marijuana program ‘stifled’ under Christie administration, says Gov. Murphy

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday ordered his administration to review New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, which he says has been “stifled” over the past eight years.

The Democrat signed an executive order alongside the family of medical-marijuana user Jake “The Tank” Honig, a 7-year-old from Howell who died over the weekend after a fight with a brain tumor, and Leo Bridgewater, an Army veteran who uses cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Murphy faulted the administration of former Republican Gov. Chris Christie for making it difficult for residents to use the state’s program, which has 15,000 enrollees.

Other similar-sized states have hundreds of thousands of patients in their programs. Michigan, for example, has 218,000 enrollees.

New Jersey is one of 29 states with a medical marijuana program. The program was enacted shortly before Christie, who opposed making drugs more widely available, took office in 2010.

“The roadblocks put in place by the past administration mean that the law’s spirit has been stifled,” Murphy said. “We’re not much farther along.”

Murphy’s order directs the state Department of Health and the board of medical examiners to review the state’s program, with a focus on expanding access. Specifically, the order calls for evaluating the whether there are “unwarranted obstructions” to expansion, among other directives.

It calls for the review to be done within 60 days.

The order comes after Murphy also promised to legalize marijuana for recreational use in New Jersey. A bill is pending in the Democrat-led Legislature.