New Jersey: Gov. Still Hesitant to Make Medical Marijuana More Accessible to Children

Discussion in 'Medicinal Marijuana' started by Monterey Bud, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. Monterey Bud Monterey Bud

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    7.3.2013 | Susan K. Livio

    Gov. Chris Christie said he has not decided whether he will sign a bill making it easier for children to participate in the state's medicinal marijuana program, but as of today, he remained dubious any changes to the law are necessary.

    The bill (S2842) would require parents to obtain only one doctor's recommendation — rather than the three the law and state rules require — in order for a minor to participate in the program. Registered adults only need one recommendation from their treating physician.

    "I don't understand why that's a problem," Christie said of the three-doctor requirement. "And you know if folks can't get physicians to sign off on this, then that tells me something. This is supposed to be a medically based program — that is there as a last resort — not as a first resort."

    "My counsel's office is looking at it now," added Christie, who answered a reporter's question about the bill during an unrelated event in Seaside Park. "And I've got 45 days or more to be able to act on it and when I make the decision I'll act on it. But my principles on this haven't changed. Compassionate use of this as a last resort when authorized by the appropriate physicians is fine and in compliance with the law."

    Brian Wilson of Scotch Plains said he was "discouraged " by the governor's statements, but he remained hopeful the bill would be signed into law after Christie and his counsel reviewed it. His youngest child, 2-year-old Vivian qualifies for medical marijuana because she has Dravet syndrome, a potentially deadly form of epilepsy, and the couple is eager to obtain an edible form of the drug that has been shown to control seizures in children in California and Colorado, and provide almost no psychoactive side effects.

    State Assemblywoman Linda Stender and state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (both D-Union) said they introduced the bill on Vivian's behalf.

    "This is a last resort for Vivian," Wilson said in response to the governor's remarks. "Vivian failed six FDA-approved anti-epileptic drugs from four months to 13 months of age."

    Wilson said he and his wife, Meghan struggled mightily to find the pediatrician and psychiatrist the law requires, in addition to Vivian's prescribing doctor, a neurologist.

    "The reason the sign-off is so difficult is due to both the archaic negative stigma associated with cannabis because of a strong propaganda machine, and because the regulations are too confusing for even doctors to understand," Wilson said.

    The bill also would allow marijuana dispensaries to grow more than three strains of marijuana, and to sell it in an edible form — conditions state rules forbid, aside from the sale of lozenges. At her age, Vivian cannot safely consume a lozenge, her parents say. More strains of the drug are needed, the Wilsons say, because few registered patients are children and would need the particular kind of marijuana that is helping other Dravet patients out west.

    On Monday, the Wilsons sent an e-mail urging supporters to go to www.lettersforvivian.org and send the form letter to Christie, urging him to sign the bill.

    "This isn't a political issue, it is a health issue," Wilson said. "I cannot understand why the governor, a member of the Republican Party, would willingly choose to put the government between a doctor and patient."

    Jennie Stormes of Hope Township, whose 14-year-old son also has Dravet and has successfully used medical marijuana in California where he lives with his father part-time, said she and the Wilsons would love to meet with the governor.

    "There is an opportunity here to help my child who has exhausted all medical options after 14 years of suffering from daily seizures with a prognosis of getting worse," Stormes said.
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  2. Monterey Bud Monterey Bud

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    8.17.2013

    Trying to straddle a potentially dangerous social issue, Gov. Chris Christie agreed on Friday to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, but stopped short of what parents of children with life-threatening diseases say is necessary to improve their access to treatment.

    Mr. Christie would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to provide edible marijuana, but only for children. Parents say the edible product provides the benefits but not the high of marijuana, and makes it easier to treat children who are too impaired to smoke. Mr. Christie also eliminated a part of the law that limits to three the number of strains of marijuana that dispensaries can cultivate.

    But the Legislature had approved a bill aligning regulations for children with what is required for adults in the program, which is already considered the nation’s strictest. Children, like adults, could be prescribed marijuana by a doctor registered with the state, under the proposal.

    Mr. Christie vetoed that part of the legislation, keeping in place the requirement that parents have letters of support from a pediatrician and a psychiatrist as well as a prescription from a doctor registered in the program. Of about 250 doctors on the state registry, 2 are pediatricians and 16 are psychiatrists.

    Parents who had lobbied for the bill said that requirement would make it harder to obtain medical marijuana because pediatricians and psychiatrists often know so little about the program that they do not want to support it, and finding a registered doctor willing to prescribe to a child is already difficult.

    “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.

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