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Medical marijuana revisions pass N.J. General Assembly

Posted at 7:15 PM, Sep 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-09 19:15:35-04

(CNN) — The New Jersey General Assembly passed a medical marijuana bill Monday that will “ease access” and expand patient options, including allowing qualified children to consume edible forms of marijuana.

The bill, which has undergone numerous amendments, has passed in the Senate and needs Gov. Chris Christie’s signature to become law.

Christie vetoed the original bill in August and said he would sign legislation that included a rule that edible marijuana would be dispensed only to minors and that a psychiatrist and a physician both would have to approve before a minor could join the program.

The final version of the bill — which was approved in a 70-1-4 vote — includes both of Christie’s demands, according to a news release from the New Jersey Assembly Democrats.

Christie said last month he was worried about going “down the slippery slope of broadening a program and making it easier to get marijuana that wouldn’t necessarily go to other people.”

The bill was originally proposed after Brian and Meghan Wilson of Union City began a campaign to get what could be life-saving treatment for their 2-year old daughter, Vivian. She suffers from Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy for which anti-seizure medicine is ineffective, according to the news release.

“For Vivian and many children like her, marijuana may be the only treatment that can provide life-changing relief,” Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who sponsored the bill, said in the news release. “As a state, we should not stand in the way of that, and today’s vote is definitely a step forward.”

The bill also removes the limit on the marijuana strains that may be cultivated and requires parental permission, according to the release.

If Christie signs the bill, it would make edible marijuana available to minors through tablets, capsules, drops or syrups, according to the release.

“We are happy that this is finally being signed into law,” Brian and Meghan Wilson said in a statement.

“Our next focus will be working …to ensure that this law is properly regulated according to the true intent of the law so that Vivian and all of the other patients in New Jersey can finally start getting the type of medicine they need in the form they need.”

Stender told CNN that this was a great step but that there is still work to be done, citing the requirement of two to three doctors’ approvals for a minor to be prescribed medical marijuana.

Opinions on the use of marijuana, particularly for medical purposes, have shifted in the United States in recent years, with a growing number of people saying that it should be made available by prescription.

“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,” Christie said last month.

Lorenzo Ferrigno Bryan Koenig, William Hudson and Kristen Kiraly contributed to this report.

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