New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law Bill A4587 this week which will allow children who are sick or disabled to use edible medical marijuana at school without putting parents or educators at risk of arrest.
Susan K. Livio writes for New Jersey Advance Media that the bill was written in part because 16-year-old Genny Barbour, who suffers from autism and severe epilepsy, was not allowed to have her handmade cannabis oil administered to her while on school property.
The concern from Barbour's school district officials was that bringing the oil to Barbour while she was in school might be considered a federal crime. In New Jersey, marijuana possession is still a crime even though the state has a medical marijuana law.
Genny's father, an attorney, appealed a judge's decision to refuse access to edible marijuana at her school. The new law permits parents, guardians and primary caregivers to bring edible cannabis on a school bus or onto school grounds to administer to a child. Still, the child must have a written diagnosis of a developmental disability and be registered with the New Jersey medicinal marijuana program.
The four doses of cannabis oil a day, prescribed by her doctor, have lessened the frequency and intensity of her seizures from several a day to one every five days. The oil has also assisted in lowering her aggression and has improved her communication skills.
In September, an administrative law judge refused to allow Genny's mother to come on campus to administer the oil. Genny's story began to garner national attention, and legislation was written and swept through both houses in June. The governor's signature will now allow school districts to adopt the policies needed to line up with the new law.
Genny's father said on Twitter that his family was "overjoyed and pumped." He added that the law is a "great milestone," according to Celeste E. Whittaker and Kim Mulford of the Courier-Post.
Ricardo Rivera, the father of a Camden County student who takes medical cannabis for severe epilepsy, expressed his gratitude to Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Audobon) and Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), two of the bill's sponsors. Rivera said the next call to action centers on the decriminalization of marijuana in Camden County, since, in her opinion, it will be decriminalized statewide in the near future.
"We're talking about some of the state's most severely disabled students, some of whom suffer life threatening seizures and medical marijuana is the only thing that has helped ease their condition," Greenwald said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. "We should be working with these families, not hindering relief. This change will lend more compassion to our program and help serve those who need it most."
New Jersey is potentially the fifth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and the decision will be addressed by legislators who will holding a public hearing on the pros and cons next week. Christie, a Republican, has said he will not agree to legalize marijuana in New Jersey.