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Medical Marijuana Bill for Kids Gets Approval [AUDIO]

A very long process that would allow very sick kids in New Jersey to have access to medical marijuana is close to over.

Medical Marijuana
Medical Marijuana (David McNew, Getty Images)

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill to allow minors to have access to medical marijuana. On Monday, a bill that adopted the changes recommended by Christie received final legislative approval.

The final version of the legislation will allow edible forms of marijuana to be available to minors only, and remove the limit on the number of marijuana strains that can be cultivated. Edible forms of medical marijuana to be made available to minors include tablets, capsules, drops or syrups and any other form authorized by the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.

The measure is co-sponsored in the Assembly by Linda Stender and Reed Gusciora. Both lawmakers are happy the limit on how many strains dispensaries can grow and sell has been lifted because that gives eligible patients more treatment options.

However, they are not thrilled that every patient won’t be allowed to get the drug in edible form.

“One of the children that has been very connected to this issue, he’s 14 and he’s going to age out of this program in four years,” said Stender. “I’m hearing from adults about a woman who has glaucoma who needs it in an edible form because of how it metabolizes and improves her quality of life and from adults with elderly parents who can’t smoke it. They need it in a form that they can use properly.”

Thus far, no minors have received medical marijuana through New Jersey’s program, in part because of a lack of formal recommendations by pediatricians and psychiatrists for the medical use of marijuana by minors.

Under the original version of their bill passed by the legislature in June, sick children would have been subject to the same requirements as adults to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program, meaning a psychiatrist’s recommendation would not be required, thereby easing access for children to participate.

Under the newly approved version, a doctor who wants to authorize medical marijuana for a minor still has get written confirmation from a pediatrician and a psychiatrist that the patient would get therapeutic or palliative benefits from the medical use of marijuana. A parent or guardian must also get an explanation of the potential risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana, and must grant permission for the child’s medical use of marijuana.

“Since this law was first drafted we have tried to live up to its name by making sure that the ‘compassion’ in the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Law remains in tact,” says Gusciora. “Whether it’s children, senior citizens, or anyone suffering from a debilitating or life-threatening illness, we want to make sure that relief is provided in the manner most suitable to the individual while remaining within the strict confines of the law.”

Both legislators vow to continue working on the law.

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