TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie returned the medical marijuana for minors bill to lawmakers Friday and offered amendments, lifting the strain limitations that can be grown.
The legislation is designed to allow parents access to medical marijuana to treat children with life-threatening conditions that are not treatable by traditional means.
Christie has previously said that he feared a “slippery slope’’ of easier access to marijuana overall by people who don’t medically need it.
To strike a balance, he acted today to lift the three-strain cultivation limit on authorized growers and to make the treatment available to children in edible form. His actions will provide qualifying minors a wider variety of treatment options under the state’s program and empower parents to make choices based on their own reflections, study and physical consultation to provide their children appropriate treatment consistent with their age and medical needs.
However, still in the law is a provision that a pediatrican or a psychiatrist registered with the program sign off on the request.
Advocates have included parents whose children suffer severe seizures – sometimes dozens in a single day – that cannot be treated otherwise. They have said the form of medical marijuana needed would not create a traditional high but would help control the seizures.
The bill also would have lifted restrictions on strains of marijuana that a treatment center could grow.
Early this month, advocates delivered 2,000 letters to the governor imploring him to sign the bill.
The entire issue of medical marijuana has been troublesome in New Jersey. The state said it would OK six alternative treatment centers, and it has issued approvals for three so far.
But supporters of the program consistently claim that the slow pace of rollout, the zoning opposition in towns, and the restrictions on what can be grown are undermining the purpose of the concept.
Christie just as consistently has pledged he will not let New Jersey become Colorado where he said stories of program violations abound.
In a statement accompanying the amended bill, Christie said:
“As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children.
“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 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.”