Vitale: Christie action on medical marijuana for minors bill will not ease access

TRENTON – One of the prime co-sponsors of the medical marijuana for minors bill is not happy with what Gov. Chris Christie did to S2842 today.

Although it may come across to some as being a positive development in allowing minors access to medical marijuana, according to Sen. Joseph Vitale, it is actually going to remain difficult.

Christie amended the bill and returned it to the Legislature, urging it to reconvene and vote on his changes.

According to Christie’s amendments, he wants to lift the limitations on the number of strains that can be grown, and allow children to consume it in edible form. 

However, a parent still must obtain approval of a pediatrician or psychiatrist who is registered with the program, and that will actually be difficult, Vitale said.

“He made the underlying law so difficult to begin with,’’ Vitale said in reference to the original medical marijuana program, that parents will have trouble finding participating pediatricians.

“If he truly wants to help, he should have made it easier,” Vitale said.  Trust the licensed professionals, Vitale said: “I think they can handle it.’’

“Look, this is what he does,’’ Vitale said. “He makes it his own issue, he creates a controversy, and he pretends to solve it.”

In his message to the Legislature, Christie said he felt it is appropriate to maintain involvement of either a pediatrician or psychiatrist who signs up with the program.

“While a qualifying minor must be approved by both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist, no additional approvals are required if either one of those physicians is registered with the program. This approach is endorsed by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Governor believes it should remain in place,” the governor’s press office said in a release with the proposed changes.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a prime co-sponsor of the Assembly version, had mixed feelings as well.

“I’m disappointed the governor has delayed giving immediate relief to sick children and has put extra burdens on parents. I’m also disappointed his conditional veto means adults – particularly senior citizens – will not have access to edible and other forms of this relief. This bill was well-thought out and should have been signed.

“Still, I am pleased to see the governor open to allowing this program to move forward, and that sick children have the prospect of getting the relief they need in the near future.”

And another prime co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Stender, was disappointed as well.

“Our number one priority is to provide relief from suffering for children like Vivian so we will take a close look at the Governor’s proposed changes to see if we can work with them to still accomplish that goal. 

“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.”

Stender was referring to Vivian Wilson, 2, who suffers from a condition known as Dravet syndrome, which entails violent, life-threatening seizures that are not treatable by traditional methods.

Vitale: Christie action on medical marijuana for minors bill will not ease access