Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 2004
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2004, New Haven Register
Author: Claudia Powers
Note: State Rep. Claudia Powers, R-151, of Greenwich is a member of the 
assembly's Judiciary Committee. Readers may write her at Legislative Office 
Building, Room 4200, Hartford 06106-1591. Her e-mail address is
Cited: Drug Enforcement Administration
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Editor's note: This article is a response to the March 30 Forum article
"State should approve marijuana for the ailing" by Dr. Joycelyn Elders.

While I don't question the intentions of legislators who support
legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, this is bad

This bill would allow doctors to certify that individuals with
debilitating medical conditions such as glaucoma, cancer and AIDS
would benefit from the use of marijuana.

We should acknowledge the existing, legal drugs available to
accomplish the same purpose. Marinol, for example, is an approved drug
that comes in both pill and liquid form. In addition, newer
anti-nausea drug delivery systems are available.

That said, there are many aspects of this legislation that bother

Under the proposal, individuals issued a certificate to use the
marijuana for medicinal purposes would be allowed to grow up to five
plants. I have seen news reports showing clandestine "farms" being cut
down and some plants appear to be taller than the individuals
destroying them.

According to the New Jersey Federation for Drug Free Communities and
verified by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the average marijuana
plant produces about one pound of useable marijuana, which can be made
into about 1,100 marijuana joints. Five plants would produce over
5,500 joints annually, or 15 joints a day.

With this amount of marijuana being produced across the state, how
will the state certify their security? We can't guarantee this illegal
material won't be stolen or shared, possibly fueling a new market
source not limited to the gravely ill.

Decades of research have demonstrated that as children's perceptions
of the harmfulness of a drug goes down, drug use goes up. Various
groups attempting to legalize this drug have run a lengthy campaign
funded by wealthy individuals to convince young folks that marijuana
is a harmless recreational drug.

Maxwell Berrand, a Norwalk High School sophomore, recently spoke out
against the bill at the Capitol, and observed "already rampant among
students, marijuana will become justified in their minds and all
hesitation to use it will end."

Thirty-six percent of Connecticut's high school students have used
marijuana and the younger they are when they start, the greater their
risk of becoming dependent. It is the illicit drug that most accounts
for emergency room visits and more kids enter treatment for marijuana
than for all other illicit drugs combined; 60 percent of teens in drug
treatment have a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence.

The bill fails to take into account the many proven risks of marijuana
use, especially smoked marijuana. According to the National Institute
on Drug Abuse, smoking marijuana leads to changes in the brain similar
to those caused by cocaine or heroin, and the amount of tar inhaled by
marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three
to five times greater than among tobacco smokers for similar amounts.
Marijuana can also impair the immune system, a significant risk for
the AIDS patients the bill purports to help.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine and its Connecticut chapter
are squarely against the bill, stating in a prepared statement that
they "strongly oppose the legislation of medical marijuana on the
grounds that there has been, to date, no critical research performed
establishing its efficacy. For each symptom or disease advocated to be
treated by smokable marijuana, there are accepted, well researched and
more effective treatments."

Similar to concerns being expressed nationally about prescription
drugs from Mexico and Africa, this bill would bypass carefully
designed and controlled federal processes that assure the safety of

Who will be liable if patients approved for medical marijuana become
dependent on the drug and require an expensive drug treatment program?
Or worse still, who will be liable if they drive a car while under the
influence of marijuana? One study of reckless drivers who were not
impaired by alcohol showed that 45 percent tested positive for
marijuana. How will workers who are under the influence impact
businesses, and what are the implications for their co-workers? What
about the teacher, bus driver or police officer whose doctor decides
they could benefit from marijuana?

This bill leaves these and many other questions unanswered.

So with highly doubtful benefits and proven harmful effects of
marijuana, why is this bill under consideration? I believe it is much
safer and wiser to defer decisions about medical treatment to doctors
and scientists who study the medical benefits and risks of drugs, and
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which requires rigorous
clinical trials of drugs for human use.

I do not believe the General Assembly should take this step, as there
are safer and legal alternatives.

State Rep. Claudia Powers, R-151, of Greenwich is a member of the
assembly's Judiciary Committee. Readers may write her at Legislative
Office Building, Room 4200, Hartford 06106-1591. Her e-mail address  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake