Pubdate: Sat, 26 Feb 2011
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2011 The Hartford Courant
Author: William Weir
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Bill revives vetoed proposal from 2007

The state's lawmakers are again taking on the divisive issue of 
medical marijuana.

The same bill that would allow the medicinal use of marijuana that 
Gov. Jodi M. Rell vetoed in 2007 is going through the legislative 
process this year. This time, it not only has the support of the 
current governor, Dannel P. Malloy, but it comes out of his office. 
The bill is co-sponsored by the four top Democratic leaders in the 
legislature, Sen. Donald E. Williams, Sen. Martin Looney, Rep. 
Christopher G. Donovan and Rep. Brendan Sharkey.

"An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana" is scheduled to 
go before the judiciary committee next month. Officials from the 
governor's office said its public hearing has a tentative date of March 14.

If passed, the bill would mean that the state could not prosecute 
people for possession of marijuana if they have signed certification 
from their physician. To receive the certification, a person must 
have a debilitating medical condition. Conditions listed specifically 
in the bill include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Parkinson's disease and 
multiple sclerosis.

Michael Lawlor, undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and 
Planning, calls it a "common-sense law."

"People who, after talking with their doctors, will know that this is 
OK under our criminal laws and that they don't have to worry about 
getting arrested," he said. Lawlor added that, as far as he knows, no 
one who has used marijuana in Connecticut for medicinal purposes has 
been prosecuted for possession.

There are currently 15 states that have laws allowing the use of 
medical marijuana. Lawlor said that some of those states have run 
into problems in regulating the laws. The governor's bill is designed 
to avoid those problems, he said.

A physician's certification is not the same as a prescription. A 1982 
state law allows doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana, but it 
is ineffectual because federal laws prevent doctors from doing so. By 
the proposal's provisions, doctors can write certifications without 
fear of state or federal prosecution.

Under the provisions, people with a physician's certification can 
possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to four marijuana 
plants no more than 4 feet high. They could legally do so for up to 
one year after receiving the certification. The person's primary 
caregiver would also be free from prosecution. The bill would not 
allow the public use of marijuana.

Lawlor said the wording of the bill is the same as the 2007 measure 
that Rell vetoed. That bill passed the Senate 32-13 and the House of 
Representatives 89-58.

"It passed with pretty significant margins in the House and Senate 
four years ago and there doesn't seem to be any less support for it," 
Lawlor said. "It seems to be a trend around the county and certainly 
in Connecticut. It think it's regrettable that the governor vetoed it 
last time."

State Rep. Antonietta Boucher, R-Wilton, led the opposition in the 
House in 2007. Four years later, she said her opposition to the bill 
is even stronger.

"Medical science is exploding with new research on virtually a weekly 
basis, that proves the harmful effects of marijuana use," she said in 
an e-mail. Boucher said the research includes studies that say it 
harms the immune system, teenagers' brains and fetal growth.

"Someday we may even have a marijuana settlement as in tobacco if we 
decide to legalize it for medical purposes," she said.

One of the criticisms of the bill in 2007 was that it made no 
provision for how holders of the certifications would obtain the 
seeds to grow the marijuana.

Looney, a co-signer of the bill, said the urgency of allowing people 
who need medical marijuana calls for action now and refinements to 
the law could come later.

"That's perhaps something for off into the future," he said. "But for 
now, we're looking at a somewhat more limited objective."
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