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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday sent back a medical marijuana bill that could expand options for patients seeking the drug and make it easier for children to qualify for the program.
The governor signaled that he would sign the bill if the Legislature made two changes: That edible forms of marijuana would be available to qualified minors only, not for everyone; and that both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist should sign off on a child's prescription.
Christie's decision comes under pressure from an epileptic girl's father, Brian Wilson, who contends the bill would make it easier for her to get a version of the drug that might help her.
But Wilson said Christie's decision, known as a conditional veto, was worse than what he had expected.
"Everyone expected a conditional veto, but this is kind of even lower than the worst-case conditional veto that we thought," Wilson said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
Wilson's 2-year-old daughter, Vivian, suffers a version of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. Normal epilepsy medications have so far failed to work for Vivian, and her family believes a certain type of medical marijuana - one with high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD – may be able to help. High-CBD strains of marijuana have helped other patients with Dravet Syndrome. High-CBD strains of marijuana have helped other patients with Dravet Syndrome.
Christie's decision maintains "one of the most unsafe medical marijuana programs in the country, and [he] really loves to insert the government in between the parents and the doctors, and really get in the way of letting them make the best decisions for themselves," said Wilson.
Before the New Jersey state legislature passed this law, patients had to have a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, and a doctor on the medical marijuana registry issue patients a card.
"The quest for children was always finding anybody on the registry who would see a minor," said Wilson.
"Our initial pediatrician wanted nothing to do with it. We went back to our original pediatrician, she was sympathetic. She signed up," said Wilson.
But the requirement of a psychiatrist is the real hurdle, said Wilson.
"The psychiatrist is a roadblock. You're talking about sick kids who aren't even necessarily capable of talking," said Wilson.
"To keep that in is just telling parents who are suffering with these horrible diseases with children, 'I'm going to make it more difficult for you to get treatment for your child,'" said Wilson.
Current law allows New Jersey patients to get medical marijuana, but the bill, S2842, would eliminate a limit on the number of marijuana strains that the state's dispensaries can cultivate - ostensibly making it more likely that they would carry versions that certain patients seek.
Wilson said he is happy with the decision to lift the number of marijuana strains, and said making edible forms of marijuana available to minors is "great."
"But what about all the adults?" said Wilson. " Governor Christie is basically telling all the adults you have no other option but to smoke marijuana in order to use it... It's not necessarily a safe thing to do."