TRENTON — The prospects of legalized recreational marijuana in New Jersey were further dimmed by comments from the Trump administration promising stepped up enforcement of federal anti-pot laws.

Press Secretary Spicer on Thursday said, "I do believe you'll see greater enforcement" of federal law.  But he offered no details about what such enforcement would entail.

President Donald Trump does not oppose medical marijuana, Spicer added, but "that's very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The Justice Department has several options available should it decide to enforce the law, including filing lawsuits on the grounds that state laws regulating pot are unconstitutional because they are preempted by federal law. Enforcement could also be as simple as directing U.S. attorneys to send letters to recreational marijuana businesses letting them know they are breaking the law.

Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in New Jersey and will likely remain so as long as Gov. Chris Christie remains in office.

"I have watched too many kids start their addiction with alcohol and marijuana and then move on to much more serious drugs. Every study shows that marijuana is a gateway drug and every study shows that marijuana causes damage," Christie said during January's Ask the Governor program.

Once Christie leaves office, however, things could quickly change.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, after a fact-finding trip to Colorado, called legalizing it in New Jersey a "game changer" and promised to move quickly once Christie is out of office. Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado.

State Senator Kip Bateman, who organized the trip, was impressed by what he saw on the visit. "When you went into these facilities, it was like you were going to the mall in Bridgewater, into one of the jewelry stores. Everything was clean, secure, under glass. It was very impressive.”

Read More: Weed could be legal in NJ in 2018, lawmakers say after Colorado trip |

During a town hall campaign event last October in Rutherford, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy said he supports its legalization, according to Republican gubernatorial candidate Jospeh Rullo is a supporter as well while Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has not commented about it since announcing her candidacy for governor.

The state Department of Health is considering 45 petitions to expand medicinal use eligibility, and its Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel Wednesday heard two hours of testimony on the idea from nearly two dozen patients, some of whom testified by phone.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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