Pubdate: Tue, 16 Mar 2004
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2004, New Haven Register
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


HARTFORD -- A bill that will allow sick people to grow marijuana for
medicinal purposes cleared its first legislative hurdle Monday,
despite opposition from lawmakers who described the measure as a
backdoor attempt to legalize the drug.

The legislature's Judiciary Committee voted 24-15 to approve the bill,
which is nearly identical to a measure that made it out of committee
last year before failing on the House floor. This year's bill
decreases the number of plants that can be grown from six to five and
would require the plants be grown in a secure, indoor area, said bill
sponsor state Rep. Jim Abrams, D-Meriden.

The bill is not an attempt to legalize or decriminalize marijuana for
recreational use, Abrams said.

"It's used to treat sick people to keep them out of jail," said

The bill would allow doctors to provide a written certification that
qualifies the patient to use marijuana only for medical purposes. The
patient or a caregiver would then be allowed to grow up to five plants
for personal use and present the doctor's certificate as a legal
defense for having the illegal substance.

Connecticut's public policy enacted in the early 1980s permits
physicians to prescribe marijuana for people suffering from cancer,
glaucoma, AIDS and other chronically painful illnesses. Patients say
it relieves pain and nausea when no other drugs can. But doctors in
Connecticut have not prescribed marijuana because its use is illegal
under federal law.

Under the bill, the certificate also would provide the doctor with a
defense from federal prosecution.

"It takes the doctor out of the chain of procurement," Abrams

Opponents contend the bill would make the drug more available to
society as a whole.

"You have proponents out there whose underlying goal is to legalize
the drug," said state Rep. Robert Farr, who voted against the measure.

He said there are other legal drugs available that can be used to
treat the maladies.

Farr questioned the validity of studies that tout the medicinal
benefits of pot for people with glaucoma, an incurable and painful eye
condition and the second leading cause of the blindness.

He pointed to other studies that showed the opposite.
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