New Jersey constituents have pressed Christie to sign the bill, which would allow medical cannabis dispensaries to grow more than three strains of marijuana and provide edible forms of the drug. Digestible methods are better suited to children because the process maintains the medical properties while removing many of the ‘high-like’ aspects popular among recreational smokers.
Christie said on Friday that he would sign the bill into law only under the conditions that edible forms of marijuana are available only to qualified children, and that a psychiatrist and pediatrician must authorize the child’s prescription. Neither provision would preclude children from gaining access to medical cannabis, but refusing to allow adult patients access to edible marijuana may pose an unnecessary risk to those with respiratory illnesses.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in New Jersey, but the bill would permit growers to produce more strains of the drug, thereby treating a higher number of patients more accurately. Children currently need three doctors’ signatures in order to be prescribed cannabis. With the current bill proposing that only one signature be needed, Christie seems to be splitting the difference.
The state legislature has not yet revealed if it would consider the changes.
Cannabis can help relieve symptoms from cancer, muscular dystrophy, lupus, and over 30 other illnesses. The drug is known to combat insomnia, lack of appetite, general pain, movement disorders, glaucoma, and vomiting, among other maladies.
“As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children,” Christie said in a Friday press conference. “I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards. I am calling on the legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need.”
The governor made headlines earlier this week when Brian Wilson, the father of a two-year-old girl who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, approached him asking for help.
“Please don’t let my daughter die, Governor,” Wilson said as Christie walked through a New Jersey diner surrounded by cameras. “Don’t let my daughter die.”
“These are complicated issues,” Christie said, to which Wilson replied it should actually be quite an easy decision.
“I know you think it’s simple and it’s not,” Christie responded.
Wilson told reporters after the scrum that if Christie did not agree to sign the bill on Friday he would be forced to move his family to Colorado, where children with Dravet have been cured of overwhelming seizures by using cannabis.
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
There appears to be a shift in the United States in favor of relaxing marijuana laws. Making pot legal, supporters say, can simultaneously provide relief for the sick and poke a hole in the operations of drug cartels. But the federal government has not acted to remove marijuana's label as a controlled substance and has reaffirmed its anti-pot policy.
Morgan Spurlock's new program, "Inside Man," premieres on CNN this weekend with an in-depth look at the medical marijuana business in California. Here are five things to know about the current debate over the drug:
There is evidence of changing attitudes in America
Public perceptions about pot have come a long way in the past decades, from the dire warnings of "Reefer Madness" to growing acceptance of medical marijuana use.
Laws in several states decriminalizing marijuana or allowing for medical marijuana use are one indicator of how voters feel.
Two states -- Colorado and Washington -- have completely legalized pot for recreational use.
Illinois, Ohio take up medical marijuana laws
Adrien Grenier, best known for his role in the HBO hit "Entourage," produced a documentary film that examines who the people swept up in the war on drugs really are.
He made the film, "How to Make Money Selling Drugs," as a way to "examine the hypocrisy of the war on drugs,"he wrote recently.
Grenier's views reflect those of an increasing number of Americans who, polls show, see the prohibition of marijuana as a waste of billions of dollars.
"I want to make clear that I am not looking to glamorize the drug trade," Grenier wrote. "But it is important to understand that little is to be gained from stigma and demonization."
Cheryl Shuman, who calls herself the Martha Stewart of marijuana, argues that marijuana can make you a better parent and provide economic opportunities for others.
"The bottom line is cannabis is here to stay, the toothpaste is out of the tube," Shulman told CNN's Piers Morgan.
But not all are convinced.
Last year, John Walters, who directed the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2001 to 2009, told CNN that decriminalization is "utterly self-defeating" and would cause more crime.
Melissa Etheridge: Pot got me through
The cost of prohibition remains high
It is estimated that $7.6 billion is spent annually by state and local justice systems on marijuana arrests, according to advocacy group NORML.
Advocates of reforms say instead of spending this money on enforcement, the government could spend it elsewhere and tax marijuana to reap even more for its coffers.
Indeed, taxing pot could raise hundreds of millions of dollars, but there is no guarantee that it would be a moneymaker for states.
The financial gains in Washington and Colorado, the two states that have legalized marijuana, have not been as great as some expected.
Washington had projected up to $450 million in added annual tax revenue, but the state's new pot consultant figures it could be little more than half that.
In Colorado, the Colorado Futures Center think tank forecasts $130 million in new tax revenue but thinks that won't even cover the cost of regulating the new industry.
Still, some say the legalization of pot would bring down the black markets that have left a murderous trail, drawing parallels with what happened during and after the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and '30s.
Estimates vary widely on how big a hit drug cartels would take if marijuana were legalized. While U.S. officials said in 2009 that 60% of cartel revenue came from weed, the RAND Corp. said the following year that "15-26 percent is a more credible range."
A report this month by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute predicted Mexican drug organizations, specifically the Sinaloa Cartel, could lose almost $2.8 billion just from the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington.
Marijuana: The next diabetes drug?
Studies cite medicinal benefits of marijuana
The wall of prohibition began to show cracks when it became accepted that marijuana has medicinal uses.
Medical marijuana dispensaries have clients who suffer ills ranging from cancer to AIDS to chronic pain. Proponents say the drug's pain-relieving properties offer an alternative for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Opponents, however, say that science has yet to prove that marijuana is safe.
A series of trials published by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research last year showed cannabis can help patients suffering from neuropathic pain, commonly caused by degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia. Neuropathic pain is also a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation.
Study participants on cannabis reported a 34% to 40% decrease in pain, compared with the 17% to 20% decrease seen in patients on a placebo drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, meanwhile, says that marijuana causes an increase in heart rate, which could put users at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Marijuana smoke also contains carcinogens similar to those in tobacco smoke.
Jason David, whose son Jayden suffers from seizures, turned to the drug and calls it "miracle marijuana."
Jayden has Dravet syndrome, a rare and catastrophic form of childhood epilepsy. The boy started taking a liquid, nonpsychoactive form of marijuana, which his father says controls his violent seizures. This form ensures that Jayden does not get high from the drug, his father says, but has allowed him to enjoy the things other boys do.
Seattle's budding economy: Pot tourism
Medical marijuana dispensaries are not what you imagine
Spurlock said he imagined that marijuana dispensaries -- the places where patients can purchase medical pot -- would be shady places.What he found at Harborside Health Center, the largest dispensary in the country, surprised him.
The space was large and clean, nicer than many health clinics he has been to, Spurlock said. Tight security regulated who could enter the business, which sells various strains of marijuana and lotions, pills and other products derived from the drug.
Some strains of marijuana are known to be more cerebral and energizing, while others are more sedative in nature and have greater pain-relieving properties. Dispensaries such as Harborside categorize their products accordingly and have specific strains for different ailments.
Marijuana laws put state and federal statutes at odds
Eighteen states have either decriminalized or allowed medical marijuana in some fashion. While the state laws have allowed dispensaries to open, they remain illegal under federal law. The gap between state and federal laws is widening when it comes to marijuana enforcement.
For instance, state law makes it legal to possess marijuana in Washington state, but selling drugs is still a federal crime. There is a similar situation in California, where medical marijuana is allowed, but again, growers don't have the same legal protections that users have.
Pot smokers in Washington celebrated in Seattle's Space Needle by toking up as the law legalizing weed went into effect, but growing and selling it remain felonies.
"So I'm not sure where you're supposed to get it," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said when the law went into effect. "If you stumble across some on the street or it falls from the sky, then you can have it. Otherwise, you are part of a criminal chain of distribution."
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215 to exempt doctors and seriously ill patients from marijuana laws and allow them to grow and use it in treatment. But government crackdowns on growers since then have led to multiple lawsuits.
Harborside, the dispensary that Spurlock visited, is fighting to remain open amid efforts by the feds to shut it down.
CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet, Alan Duke, Jose Pagliery, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Jacque Wilson and Kyung Lah contributed to this report.
- Come on Sam you know you want to!
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
Still, even though most Americans support this, just three in 10 believe that the marijuana currently being bought in this country under state-authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been authorized: for alleviating suffering from serious medical conditions.
A recent CBS News Poll conducted nationwide finds 40 percent of Americans think the use of marijuana should be legal, while 51 percent think it should not. The percentage that favors legalizing marijuana use has been steady for the past two years, but it is larger than it was when CBS News first asked the question back in 1979.
(Credit: CBS News Poll)
Not all demographic groups view this issue the same, however:
- Younger Americans support legalizing marijuana more than older Americans. Slightly more than half of those under thirty favor legalizing the substance (52 percent), while Americans between 30 and 44 are divided. Older Americans tend to oppose legalizing marijuana, particularly those 65 and older (62 percent).
- Most women (54 percent) oppose legalizing marijuana, but men are divided: 46 percent of men favor legalizing it, while 47 percent oppose.
- Regionally, support for legalizing marijuana is strongest in the West, a region that includes 10 of the 16 states that have some form of legalized medical marijuana use. Forty-eight percent of Americans in western states think marijuana use should be legal compared to 45 percent who think it should not be.
- There are differences in terms of both party affiliation and political philosophy. Seven in 10 Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana, while Democrats are divided and independents lean towards legalizing it. Two in three liberals think marijuana should be legal while two in three conservatives think it should not be, and moderates are divided
(Credit: CBS News Poll)
(Credit: CBS News Poll)
While a slight majority of Americans oppose the idea of legalizing marijuana in general, more than three in four think that doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses - the conditions for use that are set up in all of the states that have legalized medical marijuana programs. Support for this cuts across age, gender, region, and political affiliation.
But Americans are skeptical that most of the marijuana purchased in the U.S. through state authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been sanctioned. Just 31 percent of Americans think marijuana purchased under such programs is being used to alleviate suffering from serious medical illnesses. More than half - 52 percent - think it is being used for other reasons, including four in 10 of those who think marijuana should be legal in general.