Christie will sign medical marijuana bill if changes made

August 16, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Friday said he will approve a new medical marijuana bill that would allow children to use the treatment -- if the state legislature makes key changes to the measure.

AP Photo/Mel Evans New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question as he announces his "Hurricane Sandy Flood Map Regulations" Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Seaside Heights, N.J. The town, which was featured in the MTV reality show "Jersey Shore" sustained substantial damage to homes and its boardwalk during Superstorm Sandy. ()
AP Photo/Mel EvansNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Christie agreed with two parts of the bill: that children should have access to edible marijuana, and increasing the number of strains that can be cultivated for use as medical marijuana. Currently, only three strains can be used.

Christie, though, is asking the legislature to keep the existing requirement that two doctors must sign off on marijuana treatment for children. The bill would have required only one.

"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," Christie said in his response to the legislature.

Medical marijuana is already legal in New Jersey, but the bill sought to increase access to it -- particularly for children with debilitating illnesses. Christie was confronted Thursday by a man who pleaded with him to sign the bill in order to save his daughter.

The man, Brian Wilson, told CNN that Christie's move, known as a "conditional veto," is a small victory.

But Wilson said he said he remains unhappy with the changes and that requiring children to get the approval of a psychiatrist -- in addition to their doctor -- makes it very hard to obtain the treatment.

"Everyone expected a conditional veto, but this is kind of even lower than the worst-case conditional veto that we thought," Wilson said. "So while it is a small victory, he kind of put himself all over it and really just maintains the idea of making one of the worst medical marijuana programs in the country."

State Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D), a co-author of the medical marijuana bill, criticized Christie for taking too long to sign the bill.

“It’s unfortunate that these families were forced to wait nearly two months while this legislation languished on the governor’s desk," Stender said, "and now he is prolonging their suffering by telling them they must wait even longer."

Updated at 5:12 p.m.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | August 16, 2013