Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., offered his conditional approval to a bill expanding the availability of medical marijuana to sick children on Friday, framing his decision as a move to keep government bureaucrats out of families' health care decisions.
"As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children," Christie said in a press release announcing his decision. "Protection of our children remains my utmost concern, and my heart goes out to those children and their families who are suffering with serious illnesses."
The bill allows dispensaries to grow more than three strains of marijuana, and it allows them to produce digestible forms of the drug, which are typically more conducive to the treatment of children because they can be sapped of psychoactive compounds while preserving marijuana's medicinal benefits.
Christie sent the bill back to the legislature with several changes, however, which will require lawmakers' approval before the measure becomes law. The governor asked legislators to retain the requirement in current law that both a psychiatrist and pediatrician sign off on a child's medical marijuana prescription. If neither of those physicians is registered with a state program overseeing medical marijuana, a third doctor's approval is required.
"I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards," Christie explained. "I am calling on the Legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need."
Christie was publicly pressed to make a decision about the bill this week by the father of a girl with a severe form of epilepsy who said his daughter desperately needed medical marijuana.
"Please don't let my daughter die, governor," New Jersey resident Brian Wilson told Christie at a campaign event on Wednesday, according to WCBS Radio. "Don't let my daughter die."
Wilson demanded to know "what the hold up is," saying, "It's been like two months now."
Christie told Wilson the issue was "complicated," promising he'd make a decision by Friday.