FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2007
CONTACT: Lorenzo Jones (860) 270-9586 or Gabriel Sayegh (646) 335-2264
Connecticut Set to Become 13th State to Legalize Use of Medical Marijuana
Compassionate Use Bill Passes Legislature by Wide Margins, Heads to Governor’s Desk
Patients, Doctors, Caregivers Call Upon Gov. Rell to Have Compassion, Support Patients by Signing HB 6715
HARTFORD, CT—Connecticut is on the verge of becoming the thirteenth state to allow the use of medical marijuana. The Connecticut State Senate passed HB 6715, the Compassionate Use Act late last Friday. The bill passed by a 23-13 margin after clearing the House of Representatives by an 89-58 margin weeks earlier. The bill now goes to Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her signature. If Rell neither signs nor vetoes the bill, it will automatically become law.
Thousands of Connecticut residents live with crippling pain, are suffering with cancer and HIV/AIDS, or other debilitating ailments. HB 6715 allows Connecticut residents with certain debilitating medical conditions to cultivate and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a practicing physician.
“This bill will help alleviate the feelings of helplessness that families face when their loved ones suffer,” said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation. “We’ve believed all along that compassion and fairness would bring this bill to final passage. Now we need the Governor to sign the bill so families and patients can have some relief. We know she’ll do the right thing.”
By passing HB 6715, the Legislature ended a five-year Legislative battle to win medical marijuana in a state that has overwhelming public support for the issue. A 2004 University of Connecticut poll found that 84 percent of Connecticut residents support the medical use of marijuana. Dozens of community organizations, including the CT Nurses Association, support medical marijuana.
“Allowing for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is the right thing to do for the State of Connecticut,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-District 52. “This issue is not about legalizing drugs. It's about keeping those who seek compassionate care for treating crippling diseases out of jail.”
Currently, there are 12 states with medical marijuana laws. New Mexico passed its medical marijuana bill in March. Last month, the Rhode Island legislature voted to make their state law permanent, and last week Vermont’s legislature voted to expand their medical marijuana law. Other medical marijuana bills are currently under consideration in New Jersey, New York and Alabama.
“I am just 32 years old and yet due to my medical condition I feel as if, at times, I am 92,” said Joshua Warren, a patient in Wilton, CT, who suffers from chronic neurological Lyme disease. “I did not ask for this condition nor would I wish any of my pain and other symptoms on anyone else. I hope Gov. Rell will have compassion for me and for others and signs this bill.”
Allow Ill To Use Marijuana
June 1, 2007
Rhode Island's yearlong experiment with legalizing medical marijuana has been a success. Connecticut should join its neighbor and 13 other states in letting seriously ill people have marijuana to ease their pain.
So many of the 257 individuals in the Rhode Island medical-marijuana program have praised it that legislators in the Ocean State have voted overwhelmingly to make the law permanent.
But Connecticut critics would impose such restrictions on a similar bill that recently passed the House of Representatives that they would put relief out of the reach of many who suffer greatly.
For example, Gov. M. Jodi Rell's insistence on limiting the law only to the terminally ill could shut out those with debilitating chronic diseases.
Under the bill, patients with certain medical conditions such as AIDS and with doctors' prescriptions could register with the state to grow up to four 4-foot plants. (Rhode Island's more liberal law allows 12 plants.) Some Connecticut legislators fear that doctors won't cooperate for fear of breaking federal drug laws, although they'd be immune from state prosecution. Such fears haven't stopped many Rhode Island doctors from participating in the program. And the vast majority of drug arrests are made by local and state police, not federal agents.
Registration isn't a ticket to abuse, of course. A Rhode Island man who was registered to have medical marijuana was arrested for using the drug on MySpace to lure teenage girls.
Abuse is rare, however, and outweighed by the compassionate relief that the medical-marijuana program could bring to hundreds of suffering patients.
Copyright 2007, Hartford Courant
Lives Won't Go Up In Smoke If Marijuana Used Medicinally
By Mark Braunstein
Published on 5/31/2007 in Home »Editorial »Editorial
After its longest debate of this legislative session, the Connecticut House of Representatives last week passed for its second time in three years what today is known as House Bill 6715, An Act concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana. Courtesy of public access through Web broadcast video, I was able to listen to five of the six hours of the discussion.
During debate, advocates seldom challenged the opposition's many erroneous assertions. One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, did say after the vote that she could have disputed the opposition's claims, but instead she coolly sat it out and let the heated debate take its course. As a paraplegic who has used marijuana medicinally for 17 years, and publicly for the past 10, I instead must take a stand.
In past debates, many legislators had loudly called to question the very efficacy of medical marijuana. This year, however, such doubts were largely muffled. This can in part be credited to the many patients since 1997 who have volunteered their testimony at hearings before the Public Health and the Judiciary committees. Many of their painful stories encapsulated into three minutes are not easily forgotten. What does appear to have been forgotten is the list of more than 300 medical doctors in Connecticut who three years ago endorsed the bill.
The objections voiced this year by House members instead centered on the tangential issue of marijuana as a recreational drug. In doing so, they confused medicinal apples for recreational oranges. Their two main contentions were these: marijuana is an addictive drug; and it opens a gateway to even more addictive drugs.
I dispute both claims. For living proof, I look to all my friends and to the millions of youths who smoked pot during the 1960s, but eventually tired of and outgrew it in the '70s. No rehab, no 12-step programs, no purges. They simply shed it like a winter coat in summer. Now pushing 60, some of those former pot smokers have infiltrated the ranks of our legislators. Rather than further lengthen the debate, they simply ignored the opposition's impassioned but baseless claims, and voted for the bill.
House members opposed to the bill several times cited extreme cases of ruined lives gone to pot. Some recreational users do become habitual abusers, but they rank among the exceptions, not the far broader rule. Adherents to the gene theory of addiction believe that if marijuana did not exist, born addicts who placate their addictive behavior with marijuana instead would seek harder drugs, namely tobacco and alcohol.
On a personal note, I can attest that except for one cup of coffee once a month, I abstain from all addictive drugs, whether recreational or medicinal, whether herbal or pharmaceutical. Now age 55, during my lifetime I smoked tobacco only once and got drunk only twice. I must not have been born an addict.
Presently, when I refrain from my herbal medication, I experience return of the muscle spasms and shooting pains that are the symptoms of spinal cord injury. As for any symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana, I experience none. Able to abstain from addictive tranquilizers to relax my spasms, and from addictive narcotics to assuage my pains, my life is not ruined precisely because I have gone to pot.
Then there's the tiresome gateway theory. It is not true that 99 percent of all coke, crack and heroin addicts first started their descent on drugs with marijuana. They first started their descent with caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. What is true is that 99 percent of all youths who use marijuana never go on to use coke, crack or heroin. For that 1-percent minority, the relationship of marijuana to other recreational drugs is associative, not causative. If you restricted the sale of milk to only nightclubs and bars, then you could say that drinking milk leads to drinking alcohol.
Again on a personal note, I can attest that I have tried coke only once and never tried crack or heroin. Never. And not for lack of opportunity. During my field research into the drug scene in southeastern Connecticut, I have borne witness a dozen times while people smoked crack and shot heroin. Indeed they were just people, not monsters nor demons. Demons may or may not lurk in the drugs they use. But demons surely reside in our fears of the drugs we do not use and therefore do not know.
Mark Braunstein is a college librarian, a nature photographer, and the author of two books and many articles about art, literature, vegetarianism and wildlife. He has testified in support of Connecticut's medical marijuana bills many times before the Public Health and Judiciary committees, and hopes this year will be the last. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org