Gov. Christie wants to delay by up to a year implementation of a bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients.
The law, signed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in January, was to go into effect in July, with marijuana distribution to start by October.
The governor seeks a postponement of six to 12 months to ensure that the proper regulations and controls are in place, said his spokesman, Michael Drewniak.
"This has got to be done right," said Drewniak, who noted that marijuana remains a controlled substance. "It's a complicated issue. There are logistical issues that have to be dealt with absolutely correctly."
Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D., Linden), a prime sponsor of the law, said the administration asked him to introduce a bill to extend the implementation deadline. He is considering it, Scutari said, but reluctantly.
"Lots and lots of people . . . have inquired about getting into manufacture and distribution of this medicine," Scutari said. "It's not that complicated. It's a weed."
Supporters of marijuana for medical use expressed dismay that its availability in New Jersey could be postponed.
"There must be no delay in implementing this law," Ken Wolski, a nurse and executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, said in a statement. "Patients are suffering now, and to tell them they must continue to suffer for another year because of the bureaucrats in Trenton is unacceptable."
When Corzine signed the bill, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana.
The law removes penalities for possession and use of the drug when it is prescribed by a licensed physician. Access would be limited to people with "debilitating medical conditions," including severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, and terminal illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.
Patients must register with the state and will be limited to two ounces of marijuana every 30 days.
The drug will be available through for-profit and non-profit alternative-treatment centers regulated by the state. Patients cannot grow their own marijuana.
The state Health Department has received many inquiries from patients who want to utilize the drug and people who hope to become operators of alternative-treatment centers.
"Hundreds of people have contacted the department," said agency spokeswoman Donna Leusner.