Christie OKs medical marijuana bill for ill children

(CBS News) BLAIRSTOWN, N.J. - New Jersey's has just relaxed its medical marijuana law, making it easier for chronically ill children to use it as part of their treatment. Gov. Chris Christie accepted the reform, but critics say the program is still too restrictive and demand will outpace supply.

Jennie Stormes' considers the policy change a victory. Her 14-year-old son, Jack, has a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. It severely affects his speech and ability to walk, and causes frequent, massive seizures.

"He goes through seizures every day," said Jennie. "He had four this morning."

Jack had brain surgery in 2008 and has tried 50 drugs. But his mother said only one thing seems to help.

Jennie Stormes' 14-year-old son, Jack, has a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. It severely affects his speech and ability to walk, and causes frequent, massive seizures.
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"We tried the medical marijuana and saw huge changes, a huge difference, and a lot of improvement," said Jennie. "He takes in a pill or butter form, and once he does that, the seizures get shorter in duration and less frequent, and they're also less intense."

The strain does not have THC, the chemical that makes a person high.

Jennie confirmed that her son is not smoking marijuana or getting high. As far as what image one should see for a child that is using medical marijuana?

"You're gonna see a normal kid," she said. "You're not gonna notice any difference. You're gonna see a kid taking allergy meds, let's say Claritan."

Jennie, a registered nurse also raising two daughters, is among the New Jersey families who pressured Gov. Christie to approve expanding the state's medical marijuana program to allow the edible form for kids under 18. On Friday, Christie did. It wasn't an easy call for a Republican governor running for re-election this year and said to be eyeing the White House in 2016.

Chris Christie pressed to approve medical marijuana law
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he'll sign medical marijuana bill

Washington and Colorado are the first two states to allow adults to possess marijuana for recreational use. New Jersey has joined 19 other states in allowing adults to use marijuana use for medical reasons.

In a written statement, the governor said: "I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children. While many will disagree with the decision to allow minors access to marijuana, even for serious illnesses, parents should remain empowered to make a choice based on their own reflections, study, and physician consultation."

But Christie would require a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to approve it, which aggravated Jennie Stormes, who questioned what value a psychiatric exam would have for her non-verbal son.

"It should be the specialist" treating the child who should approve medical marijuana use, Jennie said. "Not a psychiatrist and not a general pediatrician who gives general immunizations and treats boo-boos."

The 17 other states that allow medical marijuana for children require only one doctor to sign off, according to the National Organization for the Reform Marijuana Laws and Americans for Safe Access.

Before the expansion, New Jersey was already one of 20 states allowing adults to use marijuana use for medical reasons. Connecticut and Illinois are the only medical marijuana states that do not allow children to use it.

Christie also said he would approve allowing dispensaries to grow more than three strains of marijuana in order to offer more treatments.

Still, for patients like Jack Stormes, supply is a problem. About 1,200 New Jersey residents are registered for medical marijuana, according to the New Jersey Department of Health, and there is only one dispensary where they can legally buy it, at the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair. A second dispensary in Egg Harbor Township has been licensed and is expected to open in September.

Washington and Colorado are the only two states to allow adults to possess marijuana for recreational use.

Researcher Abigail Collins contributed to this story.

  • Terrell Brown

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