Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jun 2012
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2012 The Hartford Courant
Pubdate: 23 jun 12
Author: Mark Braunstein


Three weeks ago, Connecticut joined 16 other states plus the District 
of Columbia and legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. So now 
one-third of Americans have the option to medicate with cannabis - 
legally. The remaining two-thirds? Many can continue medicating same 
as before, just illegally.

Even with Connecticut's new law, many patients may end up obtaining 
marijuana illegally.

Since 1997, Connecticut grappled with medical marijuana bills eight 
times. In support, sometimes only patients testified, other times 
patients were joined by doctors and nurses and lawyers and 
caregivers. Notable among the caregivers was state Rep. Penny 
Bacchiochi, who in 2004 during House debate surprised everyone when 
she told the harrowing story of how years earlier she had procured 
cannabis for her husband, who was dying of cancer.

Equally harrowing stories came from the patients. At first, only one 
or two dared to confess their crimes. With each successive year, 
another and then another stepped forward. As a paraplegic since 1990, 
I was the only patient who testified in favor of medical marijuana at 
all seven public hearings from 1997 to 2011, and each time the bill 
failed. This spring, I concluded that I was not the only one 
suffering from paralysis. I theorized that if I stepped back from the 
ramparts, it just might pass, so this time I submitted only written 
testimony. Indeed, the bill passed and was signed into law.

But I am not celebrating. The new law raises many questions, and 
offers few good answers.

How do you qualify as a cannabis patient?

You must be certified by a licensed physician with whom you have 
maintained a long-term relationship. If you are uninsured and could 
afford only infrequent visits to walk-in clinics, or if you long have 
sought advice only from alternative health care practitioners, or if 
your longtime physician is unwilling to risk extra scrutiny for 
certifying you, you are stuck.

What medical conditions are eligible for treatment with cannabis?

Not chronic pain, the ailment which casts the widest net and affects 
the most patients. While cannabis does not fully alleviate severe 
pain, in most cases it does reduce it to a tolerable level so that 
you need not resort to addictive prescription narcotics, and need not 
become a zombie.

Who will dispense cannabis, and how much at one time?

The state will license the pharmacies. If you live in the more 
sparsely populated northeastern quadrant of the state, you may need 
to travel many miles to a pharmacy. And you will need to commute once 
a month, as a month's supply is all that you can possess at one time. 
No car or driver's license? You just might need to continue to 
procure your supply locally from where you've been getting it 
illegally all along.

How much will cannabis cost?

The costs of all the controls and licensing and monitoring will be 
passed on to the consumer. Thus it likely will cost just as much as 
black market cannabis of average quality at $300 an ounce whose 
prohibition finances a dozen middlemen, the last being your friendly 
neighborhood dealer.

Who will grow the cannabis?

Not you, not legally anyway. The state will license a maximum of 10 
growers. Growers must pay a license fee of at least $25,000. 
Nonrefundable! And renewable at least every five years! Who is going 
to dish out more than $25,000 for the honor of being raided by the 
feds, raided just like a friendly neighborhood dealer? (There have 
been more than 180 raids in the last 30 months, primarily in 
California, Colorado and Michigan, where growing marijuana for 
medical use is legal.) Not 10 growers. Not even one.

So Connecticut will have hundreds of registered cannabis patients, 
but will have no cannabis for us. And we will be left to procure our 
cannabis exactly from where we got it all along. From our neighbors 
who grow it in their backyards, or our sons who get theirs from their 
friends, or from our friends, or from our friendly neighborhood dealers.
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