Supporters of the medical marijuana bill are speaking out against Gov. Chris Christie’s conditional veto today, including Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-19), a prime sponsor of the bill in the Senate. He told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes politics have played too big a role in the governor’s decision to help New Jerseyans who need medical marijuana.
While Vitale said he was glad Christie finally took action on the bill, he wasn’t happy with the conditional veto. “We have one dispensary open in the entire state of New Jersey. And while it is that we should be thoughtful and careful and we make sure these are run properly and legally and the right people get them at the right time, the way the governor has gone about regulating this has really hurt New Jerseyans and now of course kids,” he said.
Vitale said there is a voting session scheduled for Monday, but he’s unsure if legislators will have the opportunity to work through Christie’s conditional veto. He said there may be a compromise or vote on the bill the way it is. “We don’t want to delay this for kids. And not voting it may do that,” he said.
According to Vitale, requiring a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to sign off on a medical marijuana prescription for children and requiring registration is too much regulation. “When a kid has cancer, they’re already seeing a pediatric oncologist or nurse health care professional. Why is it they need to be registered with the state? They’re already licensed to practice medicine in the state of New Jersey. This is just another hurdle that has kept physicians out of this program and essentially even unaware of it,” he said.
Vitale said he believes politics played a role in Christie’s decision. “From the very beginning, the governor, I think, never wanted this law on his plate. And at every turn, from the first time the law passed to when the regulations were delayed and finally implemented and not really written to the intent of the legislation, he’s tried to avoid this issue,” Vitale said. “He’s a good guy, he’s a dad and he gets it for his kids. He understands that. But the politics, I think, have played too big of a role in this process. Where it is that he has to worry about his reputation and what people think of him, not just in the state but throughout the country and really obviously much to the detriment to the patients here that need this help.”