Brian Wilson stood face to face today with Gov. Chris Christie, the man who he says has the power to save the life of his 2-year-old daughter.
Wilson shook as he confronted the Republican governor with the question he and dozens of activists crashed a campaign event to ask: Would Christie sign a bill making it easier for minors to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program?
"These are complicated issues," Christie told Wilson in a narrow diner crammed with patrons and members of the news media. "Listen, I know you think it’s simple. It’s simple for you, it’s not simple for me. I’ve read everything that you have put in front of me and I’ll have a decision by Friday. I wish the best for you, your daughter and your family and I’m going to do what I think is best for the people of the state, all the people of the state."
Wilson wasn’t satisfied.
"Please don’t let my daughter die, Governor," said Wilson, whose daughter Vivian suffers from a severe and potentially deadly form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
Christie had planned to meet and greet potential voters at the Highlander Restaurant in Scotch Plains, where Wilson lives, to accept the support of Mayor Kevin Glover, a Democrat, in the governor’s re-election effort.
But what promised to be a humdrum endorsement — like the dozens Christie has received — turned into a dramatic showdown.
When Christie arrived more than an hour late, he was beset by fans hoping for a moment with the celebrity governor and supporters of the Wilson family, many of whom held bright pink signs urging him to sign the bill the Legislature passed in June (S2842) in response to Vivian’s plight.
"This legislation has been sitting on his desk for over 50 days while these families plead for relief for their children, not knowing whether he’ll even sign the bill or not," Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), a sponsor of the measure, said in a statement.
With traditional medications failing to control the young girl’s daily seizures, her parents, Meghan and Brian Wilson, enrolled her in the state’s medical marijuana program after learning about a strain of the drug that helped children with Dravet in Colorado and California.
But New Jersey’s stringent rules all but prevent any child from participating. The bill sitting on Christie’s desk would reduce the number of required physician recommendations, loosen the limits on strains of marijuana grown and allow edible forms besides lozenges, which are impossible for children like Vivian to take.
"Vivian is very sick, she’s on the verge of a seizure," said Wilson, explaining why she wasn’t there.
He said he left the family’s beach vacation when he heard Christie would be in Scotch Plains, even though he had been told the governor would not have the time to meet privately with him.
"Every day that he waits not only is Vivian suffering, everyone else in New Jersey who’s waiting for this is suffering," Wilson said.
At that moment, a woman crossed the cramped room to shake Brian Wilson’s hand. "I’m on your side," she said.
Outside, Christie slowly made the half-block walk from his black SUV to the diner, posing for photographs and signing autographs.
"I’m Vivi’s grandma, please please sign the bill," yelled one woman holding a sign that read "Vivian’s dad is here, talk to him." Then Lefty Grimes of East Hanover, another advocate for the family, asked him to support the bill.
"We’re taking a look at it," Christie told Grimes. "We’re going to make a decision by the end of the week."
August 14, 2013