TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie said Friday he was surprised that Rutgers University turned down an opportunity to be the lone grower of the state's medical marijuana crop because it was the school's idea.
"They absolutely came to us. I wouldn't have even thought about it," Christie said, adding that he was disappointed when he heard university leaders say the plan was unworkable.
"Their handling of it, candidly, was disjointed. And it doesn't give me great confidence in the way decisions are being made over there," the governor said.
Rutgers spokeswoman Sandra Lanman said the university has no further comment.
The plan went up in smoke last week, when New Jersey's largest university said it was declining a request from Christie to become the state's medical marijuana grower because marijuana's status as an illegal drug would jeopardize federal funding to the school.
"There is no way for Rutgers to be involved in this initiative without violating the federal Controlled Substances Act, which we will not do," the university said in a statement. "If there is a change in federal law or a change in the classification of marijuana, Rutgers would be willing to re-examine a possible role for the university."
Becoming a state marijuana supplier would be a first for any university in the country. Private businesses grow the drug in the 13 other states that permit medicinal marijuana.
The Legislature approved a plan earlier this year allowing marijuana for people with certain chronic illnesses. It was signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine on his final day in office in January.
But Christie, a former federal prosecutor, said he wanted tighter control over production and distribution to guard against abuses. So when the idea surfaced of having Rutgers grow the plant and having it distributed by the state's teaching hospitals, the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation supported the move to push back the implementation date.
Implementation is now set for January 2011 to give the Health Department time to work out details. When asked how that was going Friday, Christie said, "Not well."