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New Jersey governor said he would only sign the bill if adults were barred from edible products
A medical marijuana bill that would allow sick children in New Jersey to consume edible marijuana has been stalled on Governor Chris Christie's desk, as he says he'll sign it but only if changes are made.
"I am not going to turn New Jersey into Colorado and California. I'm not legalizing marijuana in New Jersey," Christie said in July.
According to CNN the bill currently would allow all people with medical marijuana prescriptions access to edible marijuana products, but Christie said he would only sign the new bill if it specified that edible marijuana products only be available to children with medial marijuana prescriptions, not adults. Currently New Jersey allows medical marijuana to be dispensed as whole leaves or as lozenges, but many parents of seriously ill children pressed for edible marijuana products to be allowed because they were concerned about the choking hazard presented by lozenges.
Christie also opposes a provision that would have allowed sick children to qualify for prescriptions with only a doctor's approval. Currently the law requires children to e approved by both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist, which many parents see as an unnecessary roadblock, especially considering cases where the children are not capable of speech.
"Today, I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards," Christie said in a statement released Friday. "I am calling on the Legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need."
Christie Signs Changes to Medical Marijuana Law
Gov. Chris Christie has signed a law changing details of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program with the aim of getting sick children forms of the drug that could help them.
Christie signed the bill Tuesday, a day after his revised version was adopted by the state Assembly.
The bill ends a restriction on legal dispensaries that had allowed them to grow only three strains of marijuana. It also allows them to produce pot in an edible form, but only for sale to children with qualifying conditions.
Lawmakers had also voted to get rid of the requirement that children get at least two doctors to approve their use of the drug. But Christie used a conditional veto to eliminate that change.
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Both chambers of the Legislature accepted Christie’s revised bill.
“I’m pleased the legislature accepted my recommendations so that suffering children can get the treatment they need.” Christie said. “I’ve said all along that protection of our children remains my utmost concern, and this new law will help sick kids access the program while also keeping in place appropriate safeguards. Parents, not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children, and this law advances that important principle.”
The measure was inspired by families who said their children with severe epilepsy would benefit from using certain types of marijuana. They said the cap of three strains that can be grown by each dispensary made it unlikely that those types of marijuana would be produced legally in the state.
Advocates say being allowed to grow more strains makes it more likely that other patients — besides children — will also be able to get the variety of pot most likely to help their conditions.
Father Confronts Chris Christie Over Medical Marijuana
Man implored Christie to make it easier for sick children to legally use medical cannabis products.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greets people as they walk together in Union City, N.J., Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013. Gov. Christie recently was confronted by the father of a 2-year-old suffering from Dravet Syndrome who demanded he make access easier for children, like his, who are in need of medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Update: August 16, 2013
On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sent back the medical marijuana bill to the state legislature, saying he wanted two changes made if he was going to sign it. The two changes include making edible forms of marijuana available only to qualified minors and requiring a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to sign off on a child’s prescription.
Currently minors are required to obtain three recommendations from a physician, a pediatrician and a psychiatrist. The only edible marijuana that is allowed is dry-leaf and lozenge options, but the new bill would add edible oils to the list of legal forms of medical marijuana in the state.
See our original coverage below:
“Please don’t let my daughter die, Governor,” Brian Wilson said, talking to New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday at the Highlander Restaurant in Scotch Plains, NJ, where the Republican governor was in town to accept the support for his re-election campaign from the city’s Democratic Mayor Kevin Glover.
Christie was in town to have a meet and greet potential supporters, but was instead confronted with one of the state’s most well-known medical marijuana advocates, Brian Wilson, whose 2-year-old daughter Vivian suffers from a severe and potentially deadly form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
Pleading with Christie, Wilson, who was reportedly visibly shaking, asked the governor if he planned to sign a bill to make it easier for minors to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. The legislation Wilson was referring to was bill S2842, passed by the state Senate earlier in June, which would make it easier for young patients to obtain medical marijuana and would expand the list of approved strains of the drug.
Christie responded to Wilson’s question by saying, “These are complicated issues.
“Listen, I know you think it’s simple. It’s simple for you, it’s not simple for me. I’ve read everything that you have put in front of me and I’ll have a decision by Friday. I wish the best for you, your daughter and your family and I’m going to do what I think is best for the people of the state, all the people of the state.”
Reducing the number of recommendations a child has to receive from doctors will make it easier for children like Vivian to enroll in the state’s medical marijuana program, and expanding the list of approved marijuana strains and edible forms of marijuana would allow the use of a liquid form of marijuana that has been proven effective in other states.
Medical marijuana was legalized in New Jersey in January 2010, and registration for the medical marijuana program first opened in August 2012. However, no children have qualified for the program. In Colorado and California, marijuana has been shown to help reduce seizures and has allowed Dravet syndrome patients to cut back on the amount of other prescription drugs they have to take.
Advocates say the drug would not only help children with Dravet syndrome, but would help children who suffer from a range of medical conditions, from cancer to autism to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
As Mint Press News previously reported, under New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws, an adult only needs one recommendation from a doctor to be able to buy marijuana from a dispensary. Children, on the other hand, need recommendations from multiple physicians, including a pediatrician and a psychiatrist.
In June, Wilson reported he and his wife Meghan had thus far been unable to obtain legal medical marijuana for Vivian, despite obtaining recommendations from Vivian’s neurologist and pediatrician. The Wilsons reported they were having difficulties convincing a psychiatrist the drug would help their daughter.
Talking to local media in June, Wilson said he believed the stigma associated with marijuana use was making it hard to find a psychiatrist who was willing to sign off on Vivian’s medical marijuana paperwork.
The New Jersey bill would also legalize medical marijuana in a wider variety of edible forms. Unlike many adult patients, pediatric medical marijuana patients often ingest marijuana by taking a capsule or by consuming marijuana that has been mixed with food.
Fighting for Vivian
On Wednesday, Wilson said he left the family’s beach vacation when he heard Christie was going to be in town, even though he had previously been told the governor would not have time to meet with him privately.
“Every day that he waits not only is Vivian suffering, everyone else in New Jersey who’s waiting for this is suffering,” Wilson said.
Vivian, who has been the face of the bill to ease the requirements for pediatric medical marijuana patients in the state was not in attendance Wednesday. Wilson said his daughter wasn’t there with him because she is very sick and is on the verge of a seizure.
After Wilson’s brief but intense interaction with Christie, many of the event’s attendees inside the restaurant made it a point to shake Wilson’s hand and express their support for him and his family. Outside of the restaurant, medical marijuana advocates held signs and shouted at Christie to sign the bill to save children like Vivian.
One woman holding a sign that said, “Vivian’s dad is here, talk to him,” shouted, “I’m Vivi’s grandma, please please sign the bill.”
Lefty Grimes, an advocate for the Wilson family, also urged Christie to sign the bill. Christie responded to him, telling Grimes what he told Wilson, that his administration was looking at the bill and would make a decision by Friday.
But as pointed out by Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), a sponsor of the measure, “This legislation has been sitting on his desk for over 50 days while these families plead for relief for their children, not knowing whether he’ll even sign the bill or not.”
Christie’s long opposition
Since Vivian’s bill, as the legislation was referred to, passed the state Senate in June, Christie has publicly expressed his concern about expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, which has been called one of the most, if not the most, restrictive medical marijuana program in the U.S.
When asked about the bill during a monthly “Ask the Governor” radio program at the beginning of August, Christie said “I know that parents are concerned for the health of their children. I have to be concerned about the health of every child. They can be assured that whatever I do with the legislation, it will be because I believe the solution I have proposed … is what is in the best interests of all of the children in the state.”
But in an editorial earlier this month, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an editorial saying that the state’s residents who have a need for medical marijuana “should feel no guilt whatsoever about breaking the law” if they have to buy the drug off the black market, and called the state’s medical marijuana program a scam.
In its editorial, the Star-Ledger also wrote that the state’s medical marijuana program is a “mess” and provides “only false hopes and extra expense to desperate people already struggling to afford their own treatment.” The editorial also criticized Christie for ignoring the state’s needs to “ease the bottleneck of patients and add real competition to lower prices for medical marijuana” by granting licenses to more dispensaries in order keep up with the demand for and lower the cost of the drug.
Chris Christie Medical Marijuana Decision Announced
Chris Christie made good on his promise to decide about a medical marijuana bill that had been sitting on his desk for about two months. It's not yet a done deal, however.
The New Jersey governor said he would sign the bill that would expand marijuana treatment options for children. But Christie wants the state legislature to make a few changes first. In so doing, he issued what's called a conditional veto. The changes include limiting edible pot to sick kids only and with the approval of both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist.
Earlier this week, Christie was confronted by a constituent who wanted the governor sign the bill. Brian Wilson is the father of Vivian, 2, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome, which can be treated by a specific strain of medical marijuana.
Christie promised Wilson that he would make a decision today. "I'll have a decision by Friday. I wish for the best for you, your daughter and your family and I'm going to do what I think is best for the people of the state."
In a statement, the governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate said that "Today, I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards. I am calling on the Legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need."
In an interview on CNN this afternoon, Brian Wilson called the conditional veto -- which he said was expected -- a small victory, but that it still puts the government in between the parents and the doctors. He added that it is "kind of ludicrous" to a certain extent. He asserted that that the inclusion of a psychiatrist to the mix is just a roadblock making it more difficult for parents to obtain medical marijuana treatment for their children. There is no rhyme nor reason to involve the psychiatrist in the decisionmaking, he insisted. Wilson also noted that if the law is modified in the way that Christie wants, adult medical marijuana users will still have no option other than to smoke pot.
Christie: Medical marijuana for children -- with conditions
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie has conditionally approved a bill which would allow children access to medical marijuana. Christie has called the issue "complicated" but moved forward this week after being confronted by a concerned parent.
(Josh Reynolds | The Associated Press)
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has changed course on medical marijuana by giving conditional approval to a bill which would allow qualifying chronically ill children access to the drug. He vetoed the bill until changes were made.
He would approve the bill with a few stipulations, according to CNN.
The first is that edible marijuana, as opposed to smokable or in pill form, would be available only for minors, and not patients of all ages. Another condition is that the provision allowing prescription based exclusively on a doctor recommendation be removed from the bill. The current law requires approval by at a pediatrician and a psychiatrist, and Christie would like to keep it that way.
Christie reverse on medical marijuana not enough, says campaigning family
The family of a sick toddler whose illness helped persuade the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, to change his stance on medical marijuana for children have said they will still have to leave the state to save their daughter's life.
Christie announced on Friday that he planned to lift restrictions on certain forms of the medication, including the high-dose edible marijuana that is needed by Vivian Wilson, a two-year-old fighting Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. The girl's father confronted Christie at a campaign stop on Wednesday, to complain that the governor's office was dragging its heels over a decision on a more restrictive bill that was introduced to the state legislature in May.
Brian Wilson said he welcomed Christie's policy shift to conditionally veto the bill, but that the months before the changes would take effect was time Vivian did not have. "We can't wait a year before we start treating her," Wilson told the North Jersey Record.
He said he felt it was "a selfish victory" because Christie appeared to be reacting to his family's situation, and he was also critical of restriction the governor left in the bill that would require the approval of both a psychiatrist and a physician registered by a state medical marijuana panel before any treatment could be made.
"It makes a lot of headache and heartache for parents to go shopping for doctors who understand anything about medical marijuana to get them to sign up for this," Wilson said. "For parents who are already going through a lot of trouble just with what their children's ailments are, they now have to go through this extra stuff you don't have to go through for any other medical condition or for any other medication."
Wilson and about 100 supporters effectively ambushed Christie during a rally at a restaurant in the family's home town of Scotch Plains. The governor appeared flummoxed as Wilson pleaded with him: "Don't let my daughter die."
New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Photograph: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Christie had earlier said he was concerned that the easing of restrictions was "going down a slippery slope" and that it would make it easier for medical pot to fall into the wrong hands. On Friday he said he would approve an amended form of the bill if it stipulated that edible marijuana, in tablet or lozenge form, would be available only to minors.
"I believe that the parents, and not the government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children," Christie said. "Protection of our children remains my utmost concern, and my heart goes out to those children and their families who are suffering with serious illness."
Vivian Wilson's condition requires an oil-based strain of the drug, currently banned in New Jersey – medication high in the seizure-reducing component cannabidiol (CBD) and lower in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that gives users a high. On some days she suffers up to 100 seizures, said her mother, Meghan Wilson. Brian Wilson said Christie's veto was "a step in the right direction".
"There's a lot more parents in New Jersey who are going to have to get into this and they're going to go through the same problems we did," Wilson told the Record. "The decision works for us. It just could have been a lot better."
Dem: Christie To Base Medical Marijuana Decision On ‘How This Is Polling In Iowa’
MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Desperate parents of a sick child awaited word Thursday from Gov. Chris Christie about expanding access to medical marijuana. They say their daughter’s well-being hangs in the balance.
As CBS 2&rsquos Christine Sloan reported, there will be political significance to the governor&rsquos decision.
Vivian Wilson is a 2-year-old who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a potentially deadly form of epilepsy. Her father says a special strain of medical marijuana is the only thing that helps her violent seizures.
Brian Wilson confronted Christie while he was campaigning in the family&rsquos town on Wednesday. Wilson said the Republican governor is standing in the way of a bill that would make it easier for children like Vivian to get that special strain of medical marijuana in New Jersey.
“Don’t let my daughter die,&rdquo Wilson begged Christie.
Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine signed the original medical marijuana bill. Christie has said in the past he has a good reason for taking his time.
“I am concerned about expanding the program and I want to make sure if we do it we do it in a way that is helpful to children, that does not reduce any of the requirements of the program to make sure this does not go down a slippery slope,&rdquo Christie said.
But the Democrat who co-authored the bill said the governor is playing to the conservative wing of his party. Though he has consistently said he’s not interested, Christie has often been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
“The problem is that what he&rsquos really looking at is how this is polling in Iowa,&rdquo state Assemblywoman Linda Stender said.
The governor has denied the issue is political and said he’ll make a decision Friday. The governor has to make a decision by Monday at the latest, because that&rsquos when the state Senate will be in session.
“I wish the best for you and your daughter. I am going to do what’s best for the people of this state,” Christie told Brian Wilson Wednesday.
The bill changes the three-doctor requirement for children to just one. It also allows state dispensaries to carry more than three strains of medical marijuana. Right now, they don’t have the special strain Vivian Wilson needs that prevents patients from getting high.
It’s only grown in Colorado.
The bill would also allow children to take medical marijuana in an edible form.
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Father of sick girl: Christie's decision on medical marijuana is 'unsafe'
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday sent back a medical marijuana bill that could expand options for patients seeking the drug and make it easier for children to qualify for the program.
The governor signaled that he would sign the bill if the Legislature made two changes: That edible forms of marijuana would be available to qualified minors only, not for everyone and that both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist should sign off on a child's prescription.
Christie's decision comes under pressure from an epileptic girl's father, Brian Wilson, who contends the bill would make it easier for her to get a version of the drug that might help her.
But Wilson said Christie's decision, known as a conditional veto, was worse than what he had expected.
"Everyone expected a conditional veto, but this is kind of even lower than the worst-case conditional veto that we thought," Wilson said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
Wilson's 2-year-old daughter, Vivian, suffers a version of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. Normal epilepsy medications have so far failed to work for Vivian, and her family believes a certain type of medical marijuana - one with high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD – may be able to help. High-CBD strains of marijuana have helped other patients with Dravet Syndrome. High-CBD strains of marijuana have helped other patients with Dravet Syndrome.
Christie's decision maintains "one of the most unsafe medical marijuana programs in the country, and [he] really loves to insert the government in between the parents and the doctors, and really get in the way of letting them make the best decisions for themselves," said Wilson.
Before the New Jersey state legislature passed this law, patients had to have a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, and a doctor on the medical marijuana registry issue patients a card.
"The quest for children was always finding anybody on the registry who would see a minor," said Wilson.
"Our initial pediatrician wanted nothing to do with it. We went back to our original pediatrician, she was sympathetic. She signed up," said Wilson.
But the requirement of a psychiatrist is the real hurdle, said Wilson.
"The psychiatrist is a roadblock. You're talking about sick kids who aren't even necessarily capable of talking," said Wilson.
"To keep that in is just telling parents who are suffering with these horrible diseases with children, 'I'm going to make it more difficult for you to get treatment for your child,'" said Wilson.
Current law allows New Jersey patients to get medical marijuana, but the bill, S2842, would eliminate a limit on the number of marijuana strains that the state's dispensaries can cultivate - ostensibly making it more likely that they would carry versions that certain patients seek.
Wilson said he is happy with the decision to lift the number of marijuana strains, and said making edible forms of marijuana available to minors is "great."
"But what about all the adults?" said Wilson. " Governor Christie is basically telling all the adults you have no other option but to smoke marijuana in order to use it. It's not necessarily a safe thing to do."
Yup, Chris Christie Just Said He'll Approve Medical Marijuana for Children (With Some Stipulations)
It's a bit cynical to say, but we'll say it anyway: There's nothing like a sick child to fast-track a government response to a medical issue. Take the June fight over whether a little girl should have been put on a list for an adult lung transplant. The parents sued the government, and right away, there was a strong response against the secretary of Health and Human Services' stance that she would not interfere. A court ruled in favor of the parents, and the child got the lung.
Now, a sick child has instigated a change in the rules on medical marijuana in New Jersey.
On Friday, Republican Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed (or for the glass-half-full people, conditionally approved) a bill that will make it easier for sick children to get pot. As the Associated Press reports, he stipulates that a psychiatrist and a pediatrician have to both agree that marijuana is the best course of action for the child.
Earlier in the week, Brian Wilson, the father of a 2-year-old who suffers daily seizures, confronted Christie on the issue, pleading to him, "Please don't let my daughter die, Governor."
There's some indication that medical marijuana can be helpful in treating the form of epilepsy the child has. Parents obviously want all available options on the table for their sick kids, but current medical-marijuana rules in New Jersey make it very difficult for children to participate, requiring three written letters from doctors. The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill to include children about a month and a half ago. Until Friday, though, the governor had not indicated how he would act on it.
Christie now sends his stipulations back to the Legislature. He says he will sign it if they agree to his pediatrician and psychiatrist sign-off stipulation, and if edible pot is only available to children, not to the larger medical-marijuana-user population.