New Jersey legislators passed legislation that would have made it easier for parents of seriously ill children to obtain medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan. However, on Friday, Governor Chris Christie refused to sign the legislation into law, instead requesting a number of amendments.
Christie vetoed the part of the legislation that would have made it so that children, like adults in the state, could be approved to use medical marijuana with only the signature of one physician.
Christie has said that the only way he will allow children to use medical marijuana is with the approval of a psychiatrist and pediatrician, which is essentially unneeded approval because that is already stipulated in the state’s original medical marijuana law. Currently, parents are required to get the approval of the child’s primary care physician, a pediatrician registered in the MMJ program, and a psychiatrist. Of all the doctors registered with the state’s medical marijuana program, only two are pediatricians and 16 are psychiatrists, making it incredibly difficult for a child to enter the program.
“It’s forcing people to shop around for physicians, and parents of sick kids don’t have time for that,” said Meghan Wilson, whose 2-year-old daughter, Vivian, suffers from Dravet syndrome, which causes prolonged seizures so severe that she cannot be in the sunshine or near brightly colored objects. “It’s putting undue burden on parents who are already at their wits’ end,” she said.
Mr. Christie said he was “acting with the belief that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children” — a line that could signal reassurance to conservative voters, who may dislike medical marijuana but dislike government control even more, especially when it comes to how they raise their children.
Governor Christie took the maximum two months to deliberate on the bill, which would have become law by default on Monday had he not acted on it. The measure had been approved by legislators with a large bipartisan majority. With his decision he released a statement that said, “Today, I am making common-sense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards,” he said. “I am calling on the Legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need.”
“It’s unfortunate that these families were forced to wait nearly two months while this legislation languished on the governor’s desk, and now he is prolonging their suffering by telling them they must wait even longer,” Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who sponsored the bill, said.
On Friday, Christie did approve part of the legislation which would allow dispensaries to provide edible marijuana. Additionally, he approved legislation that eliminates a part of the law that limited dispensaries to carrying only three strains of marijuana at a time.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana program took a very long time to implement, with its first collective only opening late last year. That dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center, remains closed after announcing they would shut down due to low inventory. The Montclair collective shut down in mid-June, saying that they would take a 2 week hiatus to build up a surplus of “quality medicine.” As of publication time, the collective has yet to reopen, leaving all medical marijuana patients in need of quality medicine.
Many anticipate that Governor Christie is pushing for a run in the 2016 presidential elections, and believe he does not want to be seen as the man who approves “pot for tots”.