Assemblywoman Linda Stender joined with parent advocates and other Assembly Democrats on Thursday to push for changes to New Jersey’s medical marijuana law to accommodate the needs of suffering children that the law currently neglects.
Stender was joined by Jennie Stormes, Phil and Paula Joana and Tina DeSilvio, all parents who have been advocating for relief on behalf of their children, as well as Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Patrick Diegnan, Reed Gusciora and Celeste Riley.
The lawmakers and parents voiced their concern that the program is not working and many changes are needed. A primary concern for parents is the lack of access to edible forms of marijuana for their children.
Under a bill (A-1374) currently sponsored by Scutari, Stender, Shavonda Sumter, Jasey, Diegnan, Gusciora, Angelica Jimenez and Jerry Green, this would be eased by creating a reciprocity rule that would allow patients in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to legally obtain forms of marijuana not sold in New Jersey from other states with licensed medical marijuana programs. Reciprocity would allow sick patients to access the relief they need while problems within the program are straightened out.
“The stories from parents are heartbreaking, tragic and unnecessary,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “The problems with our medical marijuana program are many but we can fix it. In the meantime the fastest solution is to allow reciprocity. We stand with the parents in saying to this administration: Change the law. Make it work. And let’s not make anymore medical refugees.”
Notably absent from the press conference were parents Meghan and Brian Wilson who had previously been two of the biggest advocates in the fight, but are now in the process of moving to Colorado to obtain the relief their daughter Vivian desperately needs to combat Dravet syndrome, relief she can’t presently obtain in New Jersey.
“Little Vivi Wilson’s grandparents live in my district. As a grandparent, the thought that my family would have to leave the state and their whole support system behind to get help for my grandchild is heartbreaking. We need to make our law work for the children of our state,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris).
During the press conference, the parents noted that they have consistently requested to meet with Gov. Christie to discuss their concerns but have so far been refused.
Jennie Stormes spoke of how the Christie administration’s policies preclude many children from getting the relief they need. Her son Jackson, who is 14-years-old now, had been on countless narcotic and nutritional treatments that carried horrible side effects. Today he is 101 days narcotic-free and cannabis is the only treatment that has stopped his seizures after 14 years.
Phil Joana, whose daughter Sabina Rose was a year old when she passed away this past December, questioned why it was okay for his daughter to take various FDA-approved drugs with debilitating side effects that did not prevent her seizures and yet she wasn’t allowed to access the one thing that could help her – cannabis.
“In my 13 years as a legislator never have I been this ashamed of our state. I don’t know how anyone with a heart can stand in the way of these much-needed changes right now. I urge everyone to contact the Governor’s office and voice their support for making this program work for our children,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).
“We shouldn’t have regulations that make our law less compassionate and caring. We need to streamline our program to accommodate the debilitating and life-threatening conditions of the people it was designed to serve,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).
“The concerns the administration has over access and control are all issues that can be solved. I encourage everyone to write to their legislators and the governor and urge their support to help the many children out there who are suffering because of the current constraints,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem), who represents the district where Tina DeSilvio lives.