Murphy’s plan to grow New Jersey’s medical marijuana industry met with criticism

New Jersey’s governor is moving ahead without the Legislature to expand the medical marijuana program.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. (Julio Cortez/AP Photo)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. (Julio Cortez/AP Photo)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday his plans to greatly expand the state’s medical marijuana program, citing “overwhelming” demand from patients.

Under Murphy’s plan, the administration would add up to 24 new cultivators, 30 new manufacturers, and 54 new dispensaries.

But shortly after the announcement, the state’s top lawmaker blasted Murphy’s proposal, saying it was conceived without any input from the Legislature.

“This immediate and uncontrolled expansion could be destructive to what is a newly-expanding marketplace,” said State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

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Sweeney pointed to legislation currently working its way through the Legislature that would also expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

“The governor shouldn’t be ignoring what is a good plan and he shouldn’t be ignoring the agreement he has with the Legislature,” Sweeney said. “That’s a bad practice and is becoming a bad habit of his.”

At an unrelated press conference early Monday, Gov. Murphy said his plan did not necessarily conflict with the legislation already being considered.

“That’s not necessarily either-or. That’s not at odds necessarily — again, I don’t want to get into specifics of the legislation,” Murphy said.

The Democrat said he had to act unilaterally to expand the medical marijuana program because of significant requests from users.

“The demand on behalf of patients has been overwhelming,” Murphy added. “And we just frankly can’t hold off any longer.”

Currently, there are only six so-called Alternative Treatment Centers across the state for medical marijuana recipients, with another six approved to open.

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