House Takes Up Medical Marijuana Bill; Barry Is Confident This Is The Year
Opponents of a bill allowing pharmacists to dispense medical marijuana offered lawmakers an April 23 letter from Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein today in an effort to show that if the state passes it, the federal government will move in to shut it down.
“House Bill 5389 will create a licensing scheme that appears to permit large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution, which would authorize conduct contrary to federal law and undermine the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances,” Fein wrote to Rep. Toni Boucher of Wilton and Sen. Michael McLachlan of Danbury.
“They’re just saying right there you people are crazy,” McLachlan said.
But proponents of the bill, including Margherita R. Giuliano, executive vice president of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, said they believe the legislation is carefully crafted to avoid any federal involvement. For instance, the marijuana will need to be grown within the state borders so as not to trigger the interstate commerce clause and it will only be dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.
But McLachlan disagreed.
“Why would any company or investor come here with that statement out there if they’re going to have their assets seized by the federal government?” McLachlan said.
“Consistent with federal law, the Department of Justice maintains the authority to pursue criminal and/or civil actions for any CSA [Controlled Substances Act] violations,” Fein wrote in his letter.
A similar medical marijuana bill passed both chambers of the legislature in 2007, but was vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday that if the bill passes he will sign it.
“This is not something I’ve led on, so if this passes I will sign it,” said Malloy, who introduced his own palliative marijuana bill last year.
Several lobbyists at the Capitol on Wednesday were wearing stickers calling on lawmakers to “Pass Barry’s Bill.” The stickers referred to one of their former colleagues, Barry Williams, who retired after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about six years ago.
For the last few years, Williams has testified before the Judiciary Committee in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. Williams was sitting with lobbyists just before the House raised the bill around 4 p.m. He said marijuana has helped him deal with the symptoms of the disease.
“When I smoke, it takes away the symptoms of the disease. It gives you a sense of normalcy,” he said.
Before the vote, Williams said he had a feeling this would be the year the bill would be signed into law.
“Sometimes you can feel it in your bones and it’s not arthritis,” he said.