By Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Friday acted on new legislation that will make it easier for children and teenagers suffering from serious illnesses to obtain medical marijuana.
Christie agreed to sign the so-called pot-for-tots bill if the New Jersey legislature makes changes, including removing wording that would have reduced the number of required physician recommendations for children.
He also agreed that children should be allowed access to edible forms of marijuana besides lozenges, considered difficult for young patients to use properly, but asked for tighter language in the bill to be sure only minors can get the medication.
Christie agreed with other parts of the bill, including eliminating the three-strain cultivation limit on authorized dispensaries, which would allow growers to develop products tailored for individual patients, including some adults, according to proponents.
Christie, who is running for reelection as New Jersey's governor and widely considered a contender for president in 2016, gave his "conditional" approval to the bill but sent it back to the legislature with the suggested changes.
"I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards," he said in a statement.
New Jersey is one of 19 states with a medical marijuana program, but the state's rules have made it difficult for young patients to enroll in treatment, according to proponents of the bill.
The legislation has been sitting on Christie's desk for nearly two months and his conditional approval comes two days after he was confronted at a campaign stop by a Scotch Plains father whose 2-year-old suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a potentially deadly form of epilepsy.
Brian Wilson urged Christie in a restaurant full of voters to sign the bill saying, "Don't let my daughter die."
Wilson said the kind of marijuana that helps stop his daughter's seizures currently is grown only in Colorado.
Christie acknowledged that marijuana is a controlled substance under U.S. federal law and "implementing a state controlled program while the drug remains illegal has raised numerous challenges." The administration of President Barack Obama has discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes under state laws.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Prudence Crowther)