In one of the highest profile decisions leading up to the New Jersey governor’s race, Republican incumbent Chris Christie has agreed to ease access to medical marijuana for minors. However, the New Jersey State Senate must first respond to Christie’s “conditional veto” seeking changes to two sections of the bill.
The governor's signing instructions ask the legislature to changes the section of Senate Bill 2482 that reduces the number of physicians required to prescribe marijuana for minors from three to one. Instead, Christie wants a psychiatrist and a pediatrician who have both registered with the state’s medical marijuana program to sign off on the prescription. If either of the consulting physicians are not registered, the conditional veto stipulates that a third doctor should be required. Christie also wants to change the law to limit the availability of edible marijuana to qualified minors only, barring adult registered medical marijuana patients from access.
"As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children," said Christie in his conditional approval of the bill. "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."
Under the medical marijuana law signed by Gov. Jon Corzine in 2010, New Jersey medical marijuana dispensaries are not allowed to sell edible medical marijuana and are limited to offering three varieties, also known as strains, of the plant. In its current form the bill rolls back both of those restrictions. The bill now returns to the New Jersey state legislature where it originally passed with strong bicameral majorities. The state Senate could re-examine the bill as soon as Monday.
The push for expansion of medical marijuana was led by families of children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy. The mother of two-year old Vivian Wilson started a letter writing campaign to urge Christie’s action on the issue. Vivian suffers from a rare life-threatening form of epilepsy known as Dravet’s syndrome that can cause her to have over 100 seizures per day. On Wednesday, Vivian’s father Brian Wilson confronted Christie on-camera over the pending legislation at one point pleading, “Please don’t let my daughter die governor.”
New Jersey's lone medical marijuana dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center, re-opened on Thursday after seven weeks of closure due to a reported lack of supply. Two additional dispensaries are scheduled to open in New Jersey later this year, including one near the Wilson's home in Scotch Plains.