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NJ Assembly Approves Changes To MMJ Law

A two-year-old Scotch Plains girl and other sick children who qualify for medical marijuana moved closer to getting the treatments they need after the New Jersey Assembly overwhelmingly approved changes in the regulations on Monday.

Vivian Wilson, a toddler who suffers from a severe, rare form of epilepsy, was issued a card to obtain the drug in February, but faced a number of roadblocks, including a ban on edible cannabis.

Inspired by her story, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill in June to reverse the ban and make other changes but were asked to revisit the issue after Gov. Christie attached recommendations to a veto last month.

A few weeks later, the Senate approved the recommendations, and the Assembly followed suit Monday with a 70-1 vote, with four abstentions.

“We are happy that this is finally being signed into law,” said Vivian’s parents, Brian and Meghan in a statement. “Our next focus will be working with the Mary E. O’Dowd and Department of Health to ensure that this law is properly regulated according to the true intent of the law so that Vivian and all of the other patients in New Jersey can finally start getting the type of medicine they need in the form they need.”

So far, Vivian has been unable to obtain cannabis, partly because of the problems with the law and partly because only one dispensary is open and it cannot meet the demand.

Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union), a prime sponsor of the bill, also issued a statement: “For Vivian and many children like her, marijuana may be the only treatment that can provide life-changing relief. As a state, we should not stand in the way of that,” she said.

The legislators initially passed a bill allowing edible marijuana to be sold to all registered marijuana patients, but Christie recommended this variety be restricted to children.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), another sponsor, said that he would have preferred elderly patients and others who cannot smoke to also be eligible to take the drug it by tablet or syrup, or another approved form of edibles.

The revised bill now returns to the governor’s desk for his signature.

During a campaign stop at a diner last month, Christie got into a heated exchange with Brian Wilson, who questioned why Christie had not yet signed the bill for two months and who told Christie “please don’t let my daughter die.” The You-Tube video of the conversation went viral.

Christie’s reply was the bill raised “complicated issues.”

“It’s simple for you, it’s not simple for me,” he said. “I’m going to do what’s best for the people of the state, all of the people of the state.”

Christie, a Republican, has said repeatedly that he wants strict regulations to prevent people from getting access to “pot” if they are not sick.

Wilson later blamed politics and said that Christie is concerned about his conservative base as he considers a run in the 2016 presidential primaries.

Another change in the revised bill that passed Monday will allow dispensaries to cultivate more than three strains of marijuana. The Wilsons have said the three-strain limit makes it difficult for dispensaries to provide a cannabis strain tailored to a small percentage of the patients. Children with epilepsy, she said, require a strain that is high in an anti-seizure chemical and that is low in the ingredient that gives the user a “high.”

Christie let that amendment stand but opposed another one that would require children to get only one doctor to approve their use of cannabis. Currently, children must have a psychiatrist and a pediatrician sign off on the drug, and if neither of them are registered, they need to enlist a third doctor.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Author: Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

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