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High Hopes for Medical Marijuana Bill This Year

by Christine Stuart | Mar 5, 2012 12:52pm
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Agriculture, Environment, Legal, State Capitol

(Updated 4:37 p.m.) The Judiciary Committee will hear testimony Wednesday on a bill to allow people with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana legally.

The nearly-perennial proposal wasn’t introduced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this year, but lawmakers believe it has a good chance of passing.

“It’s gotten though the committee the last several years,” Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Gerald Fox III said Friday.

Currently, 16 states and Washington D.C. legalize small amounts of marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, such as cancer,  HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.

“One of the other good things is that we’re learning from other states about how to get it right,” Fox said.

He said Connecticut’s bill would not create dispensaries like they have in California, which has recently attracted the attention of the federal government .

A similar bill passed both the House and Senate in 2007, only to be vetoed by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

The 2007 legislation would have allowed primary caregivers to purchase marijuana on the street or grow their own marijuana, which was a problem for some lawmakers.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he has trouble growing his own tomatoes and the 2007 legislation assumed “folks would have a green thumb.” It’s also tough to assume that the marijuana someone could purchase on the street wouldn’t come laced with some other harmful chemical.

Kissel opposed the legislation in 2007, but said Friday that he’s more inclined to support it this year because the draft legislation requires it to be dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

He said he’s much more comfortable with a pharmacist dispensing it and he’s happy the Connecticut Pharmacists Association agreed to do it.

Last year, the Connecticut Pharmacists Association testified that it supported medical marijuana and would be happy to dispense it.

“If we are truly going to ‘legitimize’ the medical use of marijuana then I think we have to treat it like any other ‘medication’,” Margherita Giuilano, executive vice president of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, testified last year. “There needs to be standards set on growing, quality assurance, labeling, packaging and dosing.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has some role in regulating the pharmacies, so it’s likely that pharmacies would have to dispense marijuana in a separate location within a store. It’s also unlikely the big chain pharmacies would be willing to participate leaving the independent pharmacies, hurt by the state’s recent decision to mandate mail order maintenance drugs for state employees and retirees, could benefit financially from dispensing marijuana.

Even though marijuana will need to be prescribed by a physician, under the legislation it’s not required to be covered by health insurance. The state will also be able to charge the primary caregiver or the patient not more than a $25 registration fee, which along with a prescription will give them the ability to purchase the drug.

Kissel said even though this is a legislative initiative and not something put forth by Malloy, he thinks it has as good a chance as any other legislative initiative.

“I sympathize with those facing these grave instances where marijuana has proved to be a benefit,” he said.

But his colleagues, like Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, will oppose the legislation.

Boucher has been a staunch opponent of legalizing any type of marijuana because she believes it will do more harm than good. She said Monday that even bringing the bill up for debate sends a very mixed message about what this legislature should be dealing with.

She said it wasn’t appropriate to delve into a discussion on marijuana when this is the year of education reform.

Research from other state’s shows that legalizing it even for a small population leads to experimentation by young people, she added.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said as an expulsion officer he’s seen an increase in the number of young people using marijuana. He worries about the legislation the state passed last year which decriminalizes small amounts of the drug and reduces possession to an infraction.

However, Cafero said he doesn’t see a problem with a pharmacist dispensing the drug to those who are ill. But he’s uncertain about how the state plans to get around federal laws governing the Schedule I drug.

John Thomas, a health law professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law, said he’d like to see the legislation passed, but believes there’s currently a cloud over medical marijuana under the Obama administration.

The Obama administration policy has been difficult to ascertain, Thomas said Monday. Federal prosecutors have cracked down on dispensaries in California this fall and earlier this month a federal judge in Sacramento dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government by the dispensaries and its patients.

“I worry about the DEA’s [Drug Enforcement Administration] actions in the West,” Thomas said.

Last year, Malloy signed into law a bill that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana, but his bill to legalize medical marijuana didn’t make it through legislature.

This year, Malloy didn’t introduce medical marijuana legislation, but a spokesman said he still supports the idea.

Last year, a Quinnipiac University poll found voters support medical marijuana 79-17.

“There is a near consensus on the medical marijuana law with about 8 in 10 voters supporting it,” Poll Director Doug Schwartz said. “It is rare to see such a level of support for any issue.”

The public hearing on the bill will be held at noon on Wednesday, March 7.

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(13) Comments

posted by: mmal231294 | March 5, 2012  2:45pm

A step in the right direction but I disagree that we need a state agency or Group of Pharmacists to produce and distribute. LET THE PEOPLE GROW!

posted by: Reasonable | March 5, 2012  3:08pm

Gov. Dan (The Tax Man) Malloy should be a driving force behind the $25. state registration fee, and the tax revenue it will bring in to our continual-emptied-coffers.

posted by: lkulmann | March 5, 2012  5:23pm

We already give medical marijuana in pill form…Marinol…Is there a doctor to help over here…Is there a doctor in the house!?? Smoking is bad for your health. Duh…

posted by: lkulmann | March 5, 2012  6:54pm

At the risk of sounding blunt, this is just CT DSS trying to avoid paying for Marinol prescribed by MDs. Somehow I don’t see anorexic cancer patients gardening after chemotherapy and radiation. That’s OK because you’re just going to foot the bill for the Home oxygen, nebulizers and ambulance bills for trips to the hospital for breathing issues…DSS you need to face the fact that you have to take care of your residents…even the sick ones. You can’t just tell them to go smoke weed! Pay for the Marinol DSS! Without the preauthorization and Brand name medically necessary hoops you make us go through!

posted by: Reasonable | March 5, 2012  8:33pm

Gov. Malloy apparently likes the medical marijuana idea, as he needs the taxes and fees to cover his never-ending-spending agenda.

posted by: jacob123 | March 5, 2012  8:57pm

Since we are scared of the whole marijuana thing, lets force a situation that only allows us to buy cannabis from the drug cartels (through Pharmacists).

So for a joke, a mexican national walks into a pharmacy and says, “Tengo buenas drogas, quieres comprar?”

posted by: ... | March 5, 2012  11:00pm

...

I’d be interested to hear Rep. Penny Bacchiochi’s input for this (perhaps in the form of an Op-Ed). Her testimony last year and her personal connection provide as strong an insight into what this program does better than anyone.

posted by: Michael | March 6, 2012  7:09pm

Trust me, even people who believe that marijuana gives them relief, they rather smoke it, than take it in pill form.

posted by: Reasonable | March 7, 2012  9:22am

Hopefully, the bill will pass, as it will help people with glaucoma and cancer—including myself.

posted by: anitnozandt | March 7, 2012  10:50am

Marijuana has great therapeutic properties. I have Crohn’s disease, it helps with abdominal cramping, motility, nausea and helps me maintain an appetite. I struggle to keep weight on. Most smart adults that use it medicinally vaporize the plant matter, its more effective and has zero health concerns. My previous medication cost me $500 a month, where marijuana cost normally around $100. As a new resident its hard to come by, so giving me and opportunity to legally obtain or grow would be great! As for the argument that it influences kids, I say BS. The majority of Americians have tried marijuana and kids will experiment regardless. It’s safer then alcohol and should be regulated the same way.

posted by: Reasonable | March 7, 2012  3:22pm

anitnozandt: Thank you for your quality, knowledgeable assessment on this subject—from someone who has been there.

posted by: cedarhillresident | March 7, 2012  5:22pm

pill form does not help a person on kemo. Most can not hold their medicine down. People that have MS do not need the same amount everyday. A pill more or less gives you little choice in the mg’s you take. Yes breaking it is possible. But smoke or vapor allows both cancer and MS patients have a delivery system that they need.

posted by: jacob123 | March 7, 2012  8:04pm

I know we are here to protect and promote our beloved plant. I would like to put this in perspective, these people are gonna die, if they want to smoke it, eat it, shove it in body cavities, cool by me. Folks we are talking about dying people here. And for the rest of us, keep consuming. If they don’t understand, they never will.