Days after being confronted by the father of an epileptic child while campaigning at a diner, Gov. Chris Christie has elected to change New Jersey’s policy on prescribing medical marijuana for children. The child, Vivian Wilson, has a rare form of epilepsy named Dravet Syndrome. Just months ago, Charlotte Figi of Colorado, another Dravet sufferer had her seizure load lowered from 300 a day to one or two a week through the administration of medical marijuana. Vivian’s father Brian stopped Christie during his campaign visit and demanded of him, “Please don’t let my daughter die.” Christie responded only, “I know you think it’s simple, but it’s not.” Earlier this year, Christie explained his issue with the lowering of restrictions on the drug, saying that it could lead “down a slippery slope,” fearing that adults could be using the marijuana prescribed to their children.
The original version of the medical marijuana bill was introduced by Democratic State Senators Nick Scutari and Joseph Vitale in response to the Wilson’s family’s plight. “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 revised version, endorsed by the governor, was approved by the state senate on Monday by a vote of 34-1. Before the changes were made, the state’s medical marijuana limitations only allowed dispensaries to offer three strains, none of which are high in cannabidiol (CBD), a compound which does not get a user stoned but instead offers many researched medical properties, including anti-seizure and anti-psychotic. Edible forms of the substance were also not available except for hard lozenges, making it very difficult to administer to children with developing lungs and the capacity to choke on small objects. The bill’s passing has removed restrictions on the types of strains alternative treatment centers can offer, and makes edibles available, but only for minors. Doctors say that this new limit is detrimental as patients of all ages may be unable to smoke or use lozenges as well, due to lung conditions or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Despite Christie’s change of heart, he decided not to remove the requirement that two doctors approve the use of cannabis for children; both a pediatrician and psychiatrist will need to sign off and a third doctor’s approval may be required if neither of the two are registered with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper about the revision of the passed bill, Brian Wilson said: “The psychiatrist is just a roadblock. There’s no rhyme or reason to have a psychiatrist be part of this decision. You’re talking about sick kids who aren’t even mentally capable of talking. Vivian can’t even talk.”