Marijuana: Chris Christie okays MMJ for New Jersey kids, but cites Colorado concerns

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie isn't the most progressive official when it comes to marijuana policy -- and as we've noted, he's previously cited Colorado as a negative example of state pot laws.

Now, however, Christie has come out in favor of allowing sick kids access to medical marijuana. But in explaining safety measures he endorses, he again mentions dangers he associates with Colorado.

A CBS News report about Christie's actions shares much in common with a featured family in the recent CNN documentary WEED, in which Dr. Sanjay Gupta came out in favor of using marijuana for medical purposes.

The CNN program featured Colorado's Paige Figi, whose young daughter Charlotte suffers from Dravet Syndrome, an uncommon, and serious, form of epilepsy -- and she's made remarkable progress via therapy involving cannabis oil. (The lack of THC in the oil means it doesn't have a psychoactive effect.) Likewise, the CBS piece spotlights New Jersey mom Jennie Stormes, whose son Jack also suffers from Dravet Syndrome -- and he has experienced more relief from cannabis oil than any of the approximately fifty other drugs prescribed to him. Like Gupta, Christie seems to have been won over by stories like Jack's -- at least to the degree that he's in favor of letting families and their physicians choose medical marijuana to treat their kids. In a letter featuring his recommendations for reconsideration of the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," seen below in its entirety, he writes:

Qualified minors should be allowed access to products in appropriate edible forms to ensure that children can receive treatments consistent with their age and medical needs, as well as the individual preferences of their guardians. As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children. 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.

Later in the note, Christie maintains that requiring a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to approve of a minor's MMJ use, with at least one needing to be registered with the state's program, is an important safeguard -- something he stresses via the following Colorado reference:

This approach is endorsed by the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises that children are at particular risk from the use of marijuana because their reactions to medications often differ from adults. Notably, at least one recent study has indicated a rise in emergency hospitalizations in Colorado for accidental marijuana ingestion in children.

The study in question? Continue for more about New Jersey kids and medical marijuana, including a video and a document. As we reported in May, study co-authors George Wang and Michael Kosnett looked at emergency room visits at Children's Hospital involving unintentional marijuana exposure in kids via ingestion. "We saw zero from January 2005 through September 2009" out of 790 patients that fit the criteria, Wang told us. "But from October 2009 through December 2011, we saw fourteen visits to the ER at Children's for children less than twelve who'd been unintentionally exposed to marijuana," out of 588 applicable patients.

The allusion to a Colorado report recalls Christie comments from July 2012, shortly after the New Jersey Assembly had voted to decriminalize marijuana in small amounts. According to Edison/ Metuchen Sentinel columnist Greg Bean, Christie had pledged to veto the measure due in part to his view that "decriminalization would somehow weaken the state's medical marijuana program -- which his administration has been accused of sabotaging since it became law over two years ago." Moreover, Bean continued, Christie "also said that he doesn't want New Jersey to become like Colorado and California, where decriminalization had led to de facto legalization."

In the end, Christie didn't have to make good on his veto threat; the bill never made it out of committee in the New Jersey Senate. But if it eventually does, don't be surprised if Christie denigrates it by way of a shot at Colorado.

Here's the aforementioned CBS News report, followed by Christie's recommendations document.

Chris Christie Medical Marijuana Statement

More from our Marijuana archive: "Meet Paige Figi, whose daughter helped change CNN doc Sanjay Gupta's mind about weed."

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