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Christie gives conditional OK to broader medicinal marijuana use

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 presidential contender, gave conditional approval to legislation that would allow wider use of medicinal marijuana in his state Friday, including making it available to children in edible form.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to fellow Republicans, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 during the Republican National Committee summer meeting in Boston.Josh Reynolds / AP

But Christie first sent the bill back to the state legislature to seek more protections against abuse.

“I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards,” Christie said in a statement on Friday. “I am calling on the Legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need.”

Medicinal marijuana is already available to children under existing state law. The regulations require approval from a doctor trained in the care of pediatric patients and from a psychiatrist affirming the patient is likely to receive benefit from the use of medicinal marijuana.

The issue gained national attention this week when Brian Wilson, the father of a two-year child suffering from a form of epilepsy, confronted Christie at a diner in Scotch Plains, N.J., an encounter recorded by local TV stations. Wilson said a type of marijuana not currently available under New Jersey regulations would alleviate his daughter’s seizures.

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Under current New Jersey law, patients seeking to use medicinal marijuana register with Alternative Treatment Centers. Christie said that broadening the types of marijuana that these centers may cultivate “will allow dispensaries to develop products tailored to the needs of particular patient populations, and thus provide additional options to those in need.”

He said “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.”

He noted that he believes 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.”