The New Jersey Assembly approved changes to the Medical Marijuana Law today, allowing marijuana to be distributed to ill children in edible form and permitting growers to cultivate more than three strains. The bill does not, however, ease the requirement that a pediatrician and psychiatrist must sign off before access is gained to the drug. Of the 20 states that allow medical marijuana, New Jersey is among the few that require additional hurdles for young patients.
Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D., Middlesex), a prime sponsor of the bill, also issued a statement: "For Vivian and many children like her, marijuana may be the only treatment that can provide life-changing relief. As a state, we should not stand in the way of that." The legislators initially passed a bill allowing edible marijuana to be sold to all registered marijuana patients, but Christie recommended that this variety be restricted to children. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer), another sponsor, said he would have preferred that elderly patients and others who cannot smoke also be eligible for edible marijuana, which includes tablets and syrup.
During a campaign stop at a diner last month, Christie got into a heated exchange with Brian Wilson, who questioned why Christie had not signed the bill for two months and who said, "Please don't let my daughter die." His daughter has frequent seizures that could shorten her life, and cannabis has helped epileptic children in other states. Christie's reply was that the bill raised "complicated issues." "It's simple for you, it's not simple for me," he said. "I'm going to do what's best for the people of the state, all of the people of the state."
Christie, a Republican, has said repeatedly that he wants strict regulations to prevent people from getting access to pot if they are not sick. Wilson blamed politics and said Christie was concerned about his conservative base as he considers a run in the 2016 presidential primaries. The Wilsons have said the three-strain limit makes it difficult for dispensaries to provide a cannabis strain tailored to a small percentage of the patients. Children with the rare epilepsy, Meghan Wilson said, require a strain that is high in an antiseizure chemical and low in the ingredient that gives the user a high.
Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R., Monmouth), a supporter of medical marijuana, said, "Requiring a psychiatrist is a pointless hurdle." He noted that he worked with the Wilsons to help them find a psychiatrist so Vivian would qualify to take cannabis, and said it was a difficult process. Overall, he called the bill "real progress," but said the psychiatrist requirement was unfortunate because "there is a dearth of psychiatrists willing to participate."