New Jersey Governor Chris Christie surprised critics Wednesday by stepping up and expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, signing a bill allowing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be added to the program’s list of qualified conditions.
On Thursday, the Republican governor, who in the past has characterized medical marijuana expansion efforts as a “front for legalization,” put his signature on a proposal (Assembly Bill 457) that includes PTSD sufferers in the state’s medical marijuana program.
The law is effective immediately.
Pointing out that close to 20 percent of the veterans who served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are living with the disorder, Christie said the new law “would provide struggling veterans and others with the ability to use medical marijuana to treat PTSD.” You can read Christie’s full statement here.
The law requires the patient’s doctor or psychiatrist attest that conventional medical therapy is ineffective.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace, the lawmaker responsible for moving Assembly Bill 457 through the legislature, said that while the addition of PTSD is a victory, New Jersey’s law remains far from comprehensive. Eustace told North Jersey.com that he plans to address the issue of adding more qualified conditions in the near future, as well as make a push to allow edible cannabis products for children suffering from epilepsy.
Right now New Jersey ‘s medical marijuana program only allows patients with a handful of serious conditions to access the program.
Christie’s support for adding PTSD to the state’s list of qualified conditions comes weeks after more than 18,000 people signed a petition on Change.org calling on him to sign the bill. Christie can’t run for re-election in 2017 because of the state’s term limits law. His ill-fated presidential bid has left him with dismal popularity in his home state. He is currently chairman of Donald Trump’s transition committee.
Ironically, veterans hoping to get their hands on medical marijuana will need to find a doctor outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs to make it happen. Federal law still prohibits doctors employed with the VA from so much as even discussing the possibility of cannabis medicine with their patients.