TRENTON, NJ – In a 70-1 vote on Monday, the New Jersey State Assembly passed the amended bill giving better access to Medical Marijuana (MMJ) for minors, a bill inspired by Scotch Plains toddler Vivian Wilson.
Vivian Wilson suffers from a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, which has responded well to a particular strain of edible MMJ formerly not available in New Jersey.
Vivian’s parents, Megan and Brian Wilson, have been crusading for changes to the state’s MMJ law for some time. Although Vivian was granted an MMJ card last February, complexities in the law made it impossible for her to get the strain of edible MMJ that would help her condition.
When Governor Chris Christie visited Scotch Plains last month, the Wilsons took the opportunity to raise public awareness by staging a protest and actually causing a confrontation with the Governor.
Brian Wilson’s plea to the Governor of, “Please don’t let my daughter die” was picked up on a national news feed and became a major story.
The Wilson’s feel that without this added publicity that made more people aware of the issues, that the Governor might have just vetoed the bill in its entirety, instead of sending it back to the Assembly with changes.
“This battle is far from over,” said Brian Wilson. “We are happy that this is finally being signed into law. Our next focus will be working with the Mary E. O'Dowd and Department of Health 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.”
However, although the bill has been passed, there are still many roadblocks to Vivian being able to get regular access to the medicine she needs.
If either the prescribing pediatrician or psychiatrist is not registered in the state's medical marijuana program, a third registered physician must also approve the treatment. This inclusion was a mystery to the Wilsons, as they could not understand how a third doctor, with no history of treating their daughter's case, could be in a position to make an informed decision.
There is also the issue of the technical verbiage of the bill being translated into practice, with any new strains needing to be regulated and tested.
Last, but certainly not least, there is only one dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, that can provide what is needed and they have been closed for weeks due to supply issues. This is a major concern, as inconsistent treatment could be deadly for Vivian.
“While we are happy this was passed, in reality it’s a big mess right now,” said Brian Wilson. “It’s really depressing as we feel it does not have much of a chance to work – although we would be happy to be surprised.”
In the past, the Wilsons have contemplated relocating to Colorado, a state that has more flexible MMJ laws and a better and less expensive supply. However, due to the increased publicity, more and more families are contemplating the move to Colorado, and that state only has one source of supply.
“There are many hoops that we will have to go through, whether we stay here or go to Colorado,” said Wilson. “We need a steady, reliable supply. We want to give New Jersey a chance, but we fear it will only get bogged down.”
While they wait to be surprised, the Wilsons are contemplating hedging their bets by beginning to establish residency in Colorado. “All we can do is get on a waiting list and see what happens,” concluded Brian Wilson.