Fight continues over cannabis law for ill N.J. 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: August 02, 2013

Parents who have been fighting for changes in the state's medical marijuana law so they can provide the drug to their severely ill children took their campaign to Gov. Christie's office Thursday, armed with more than 2,100 letters from supporters.

In New Jersey, sick children are allowed to use cannabis under the three-year-old law, but strict regulations and problems in implementation have made it impossible for any of them to obtain marijuana.

The governor has until Thursday to sign or veto a bill that would change three of the more cumbersome requirements, including one that bans edible cannabis, the type children can easily use.

Christie was not at the Statehouse when the letters were delivered, and in the past rebuffed the parents' requests for a personal meeting.

On his radio program, Ask the Governor, on New Jersey 101.5 FM Wednesday, Christie said of the bill: "I think we've got to be very careful. . . . It's on my desk. I'm examining it. I'm hoping to come up with a solution that will be helpful to these families, but also helpful to all families in New Jersey so that we don't become Colorado or California." He has criticized those states for lax regulations.

In other remarks Christie made last month, he said that New Jersey's program was limited to patients with a terminal or debilitating illness, but that when it came to children, "I'm very reluctant."

Meghan Wilson of Scotch Plains, Union County, said she wanted to meet with him personally to explain that her 2-year-old, Vivian, suffers from daily seizures that have not responded to various barbiturates and other prescribed drugs. Marijuana would be a last resort for her child, she said.

Parents of children in Colorado and California who have the same rare condition, Dravet syndrome, have reported success with medical marijuana, and Wilson would like to see whether it works for her daughter.

Brian Wilson, Vivian's father, said Christie's remarks showed he did not understand the situation: "If there was a mild, light drug you could give your child to stop her seizures, why would you say she can only take prescription drugs with much more serious side effects?"

The bill would lift a regulation that limits dispensaries to selling only three strains. Wilson says it may not be feasible for them to offer a special strain for children with Dravet, which would have high levels of cannabidiol to stop seizures and would remove the THC, the euphoric ingredient.

The bill also would require children to obtain a single doctor's recommendation to get approval to use cannabis, the same as adults. Currently, children must also get a pediatrician and psychiatrist to sign off on their treating doctor's recommendation, which the parents say is a tough hurdle.

Jennie Stormes of Hope, Warren County, teamed up with the Wilsons to get the bill signed. Her son, Jackson, 14, also suffers from Dravet. He has had brain surgery and has used more than 30 prescription drugs over the years, with little success.

Jackson and Vivian were both issued medical-marijuana cards in February, but have been unable to get cannabis. The single New Jersey dispensary that opened last year limited its clientele and is temporarily closed because of business problems.

Two other dispensaries are scheduled to open this fall, but they will not be permitted to sell the edible cannabis that children could easily use.


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

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