NJ Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, one of the prime sponsors of the state's three-year-old medicial marijuana law, is puzzled by Gov. Christie's veto of a bill that would remove hurdles that keep seriously ill children from using cannabis. The veto was conditional, meaning Christie is demanding changes before he will sign the bill.
The bill was passed after Brian and Meghan Wilson told lawmakers their two-year-old girl needs cannabis because it has the potential to stop her frequent, life-threatening seizures. The Scotch Plains couple urged amendments to the law, which they said was flawed.
A big problem was the ban against edible marijuana. Their daughter, Vivian, cannot smoke and requires a solution that may be added to butter, they said.
The bill would have lifted the restriction for all registered marijuana patients but Christie wants edible marijuana to be available only to minors.
"What about a 70-year-old woman who has emphysema?" Gusciora (D-Mercer) said in an interview. "What is the harm if elderly patients take it in a brownie?
Christie says he wants to make sure marijuana is restricted to only severely ill patients and wants to take safeguards so it is not abused by people "with a migraine." He favors strict regulations, he says, so that "potheads" don't get their hands on the drug.
Chris Christie is also considered a 2016 Republican presidential contender and will need to address the concerns of right-wing conservatives who adamently oppose any legalization of marijuana.
"He wants to show he's conservative, but this defies logic," Gusciora, a Democrat, says. He believes Christie drew his line in the sand to avoid the "vision of pot brownies, and ...an episode of 'Weeds.' " Gusciora was referring to Showtime's hit TV series about a suburban housewife who sells marijuana to make a living after her husband dies.
"If he wanted to stay with his go slow approach, and wanted to split the baby, he should have said only juveniles or elderly" should be able to eat these brownies, Gusciora said, half-joking.
On Monday, the state Senate voted 34-1 in favor of all of Christie's changes. The ball is now in the Assembly's court. No date has been set for the vote in the lower house.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), also a prime sponsor of the marijuana law and a sponsor of the most recent bill, issued a statement saying he was glad Christie went along with much of the bill. But he said other obstacles in the law still need to be addressed.
Christie rejected the part of the bill that requires parents to get a referral from only one doctor who agrees that their child is eligible for cannabis. He did not want to tinker with existing law, which requires a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to sign off on the drug, and if neither of them are registered with the program, a third doctor. The Wilsons said they had to make numerous calls to get even one doctor to agree to recommend cannabis for their child.
Scutari says parents with severely sick should not have to jump through so many hoops to get a drug they are legally entitled to receive.
Christie wanted this provision in the law to remain intact, saying the NJ Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed this approach.
Meanwhile, the Academy has taken the stance that marijuana should not be given to children.