Christie pressed to OK medical pot for children

Meghan Wilson and daughter Vivian, 2, at their home in Scotch Plains, N.J. Wilson and her husband believe medical use of marijuana could help their daughter with a form of epilepsy.
Meghan Wilson and daughter Vivian, 2, at their home in Scotch Plains, N.J. Wilson and her husband believe medical use of marijuana could help their daughter with a form of epilepsy. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 18, 2013

Gov. Christie has received 1,500 faxes over the last three weeks urging him to sign a bill that would ease the requirements children must meet before they can use medical marijuana, say the parents of a 2-year-old who has a severe form of epilepsy.

So far, the governor has issued no response, but at previous news conferences, he said he was "not inclined" to let children have marijuana.

Children with serious diseases and conditions in New Jersey can legally use marijuana, but current regulations make it difficult for them to obtain it. A bill that would address these problems passed the legislature last month and is on Christie's desk. He has until next month to act on it.

Meghan and Brian Wilson of Scotch Plains organized a lobbying effort through their website, www.lettersforvivian.org., which generates a fax for each person who agrees to support their cause.

Their toddler, Vivian, has Dravet syndrome, a rare type of epilepsy, and has been prescribed barbiturates and benzodiazepines to stop seizures that have lasted as long as one hour. The couple are buoyed by reports of children in Colorado and California whose seizures stopped after they ingested a type of cannabis that does not deliver a euphoric high.

Vivian was issued a medical marijuana card in February but cannot get the drug. There is only one dispensary in the state, and it is not allowed to offer cannabis in an edible form that children can use.

Meghan Wilson said she had been rebuffed by Christie, who is widely viewed as a possible Republican 2016 presidential candidate.

After the bill was passed, she went to the governor's office to speak with him but was directed to staff. Then her husband called the governor's office last week to arrange a meeting, but a scheduler said Christie "does not have time," she said.

E-mails and a call placed to the governor's office were not returned Tuesday.

Christie has until Aug. 8 to sign or veto a bill that would require children to have written approval from only one doctor, the same as adults. Currently, children must get a psychiatrist and a pediatrician to sign off on the recommendation of their treating doctor before they can use cannabis.

Christie has said he prefers this approach. The parents say it is a cumbersome and expensive process, especially since only two pediatricians are registered with the state's medical marijuana program.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to giving children cannabis, saying it has not been proved effective or safe.

Meghan Wilson said the other drugs her child has been prescribed also are not approved for her age, but were given when nothing else worked.

The story has made national news, and Meghan Wilson has been interviewed by news media. On Tuesday, she appeared on Huffington Post Live, where a panel of doctors and another parent discussed the issue of children using medical marijuana.

Wilson said that her child's quality of life is at stake because she is limited to giving Vivian addictive drugs that have serious side effects. She said cannabis is not known to cause similar side effects and should be available to children who are suffering.

Instead of being "out enjoying the Jersey Shore," she said, Christie should sign the bill, which passed both chambers June 24.

Jennie Stormes, whose 14-year-old son, Jackson, has Dravet, is also involved in the lobbying. On her Facebook page, she asked followers to call the governor and posted pictures of her son signing a letter asking him to "please sign the bill."

Stormes, of Hope, Warren County, said Jackson has had brain surgery, has had an implant placed in his chest to control seizures, and has tried 35 drugs. Nothing, she said, has worked, and she would like to try cannabis because of the reports she has heard.

In South Jersey, a dispensary is expected to open in Egg Harbor Township in the fall. Last month, it received a permit to grow marijuana.


Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224, jhefler@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog, "Burlco Buzz," at www.inquirer.com/BurlcoBuzz.

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