TRENTON – The state Senate today approved Gov. Chris Christie’s changes to a bill that would amend New Jersey’s medical marijuana law to help severely ill children gain access to the drug. The original legislation (S-2842) was introduced in response to efforts by a Union County couple to obtain treatment for their two-year-old daughter, who is suffering from Dravet syndrome, a severe and rare form of epilepsy that anti-seizure medicine does not control.
“No one who is suffering with a painful and debilitating illness should be denied relief if it can be provided, and that is especially true for a young child,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex). “The Wilson family has been prevented from getting their child the help she needs as a result of severe restrictions placed on our state program. We should not make their family, nor any other family in New Jersey, wait any longer for relief. While I believe far too many limitations still exist, these changes will help to remove some of the barriers faced by eligible patients.”
The governor’s revised version of the bill will allow the distribution of medical marijuana in an edible form, which in some cases may be the most appropriate form for a young child to receive treatment, or other forms permitted by the Commissioner of Health; and remove restrictions on the number of strains of marijuana that can be cultivated by alternative treatment centers under the program. The recommendations were accepted by a vote of 34-1.
The bill’s sponsors had also hoped to make it easier for children to have the drug prescribed, bringing them under the same requirements as adults for participation in the state’s medical marijuana program, except that a parent or guardian must have granted permission for the child’s medical use of marijuana.
However, Christie wants to retain the requirement of both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist authorizing the use of medical marijuana; a third doctor’s approval could also be required if neither participates in the state’s medical marijuana program.
“Our medical marijuana law was already the strictest in the nation. The program has been made so restrictive that it has prevented eligible patients from obtaining the relief they are entitled to under the law,” said Scutari (D-Union). “These common-sense changes are a small step toward ensuring that children who are suffering from a debilitating condition can get the compassionate care they deserve. I want to thank the Wilson family for working with us on this legislation and for their advocacy on behalf of their daughter, Vivian, and all of the children of the state who are in need of treatment.”
The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration.
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