Gov. Chris Christie on Friday granted conditional approval to a bill to ease access to medical marijuana for children. The bill was inspired by Vivian Wilson, a 2-year-old from Scotch Plains who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.
While Christie approves of the bill's action to allow dispensaries to sell more than three strains of marijuana and to allow marijuana to be sold in edible forms, the governor maintains that a pediatrician and psychiatrist must sign off on marijuana prescriptions. If either the prescribing pediatrician or psychiatrist is not registered in the state's medical marijuana program, a third physician must also approve the treatment. The bill now goes back to the state legislature.
“As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children,” Christie said Friday.
“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. Today, I am making common sense 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.”
The Wilson family has made headlines for seeking medical marijuana for Vivian who suffers from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that causes her violent and frequent seizures. A non-psychoactive strain of marijuana has proven effective at reducing seizures for children with Dravet in states like Colorado.
Vivian's father Brian confronted Christie about the bill when the governor made a campaign stop in Scotch Plains on Wednesday. See our video of their heated exchange: 'Don't Let My Daughter Die,' Dad Urges Gov. to Sign Medical Marijuana Bill for Kids'
"We are confident the legislature will resolve the conflict and hope that the Department of Health implements these changes swiftly and with good faith of the intent of the law," the Wilsons said in a statement.
"However, we are disappointed that the governor decided to make it so difficult for parents, who are already enduring tremendous pain and heartache, to get approval for such a safe and simple medication. We think that the next course of action is for the legislation to draft a bill to require three doctors to sign off for pediatric prescriptions of opiates, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, steroids and methamphetamines, which are all liberally prescribed with little oversight or Dr-to-parent education."