New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he wants changes to a bill that would make medical marijuana more accessible to chronically ill children in the state. He sent the bill back to the New Jersey legislature with recommendations.
“Protection of our children remains my utmost concern, and my heart goes out to those children and their families who are suffering with serious illnesses,” Christie said in a statement. “Today, I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards.”
Christie agreed to allow authorized growers to cultivate more than three strains of medical marijuana, which is the current limit. This will allow growers to develop new strains of medical marijuana that can specifically help children who suffer from epileptic seizures. Also, Christie expressed support for giving sick children access to edible marijuana, which has no sugar and presents no choking hazard, unlike available lozenges. Edible marijuana has low THC, and does not get people high.
However, the governor said that the bill must stipulate that edible forms of marijuana be available only to authorized minors, not adult patients, and that children get the signatures of both a physician and a psychiatrist in order to enroll in the program.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Linda Stender, a Democrat and a sponsor of the original medical marijuana bill, said in a statement that by sending the bill back to the legislature, Christie is simply "prolonging the suffering" of children. "We will take a close look at the Governor's proposed changes to see if we can work with them to still accomplish that goal [of providing relief from suffering from children]," she said.
One person hoping for a revision in the law is New Jersey resident Meghan Wilson, whose two-year-old daughter Vivian suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that often results in more than 100 seizures a week.
Wilson and her husband, Brian, fought to get this bill through the New Jersey Senate in order to get medical marijuana for Vivian. Brian Wilson confronted Christie at a press event on Wednesday.
“For us, this is a quality of life issue,” Meghan Wilson said. “We just want her to be able to go outside and be a kid and not worry every time if she is going to have a seizure.”
Wilson has mixed feelings about Governor Christie’s conditional approval of the bill. In particular, she doesn't understand why adult patients cannot have access to medical marijuana, and why Vivian will require a psychiatrist’s approval to have access to medical marijuana.
“I don’t feel the psychiatrist has any role in this,” Wilson said.
Still, it’s a step in the right direction if it means she can get her daughter treatment, Wilson said.
“I never want to look Vivian in the eyes and tell her that I failed her or you know that there was a better treatment out there but I didn't fight hard enough,” said Wilson.