Pubdate: Mon, 26 Feb 2018
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2018 The Hartford Courant
Author: Gregory B. Hladky


People who were addicted to opioids and those who lost loved ones to
opioid overdoses offered emotional testimony Monday urging state
officials to approve medical marijuana as an alternative painkiller
that could help halt Connecticut's deadly opioid epidemic.

"My passion and drive to achieve this is fueled by my personal
experience battling pharmaceutical drug addiction solely with the use
of cannabis," Cody Roberts of Seymour told the state Board of
Physicians, which is charged with approving conditions for the state's
medical marijuana program. Roberts testified he's lost eight friends
in the past year to opioid overdoses, and has been addicted himself.

"After losing so many friends, you can't help but spend countless
nights grieving, trying to figure out why and what you could have done
to prevent these senseless deaths," Roberts said. "I went to jail. I
went to rehab. I tried to commit suicide twice," he said of his
experience with opioids, adding that pot "saved my life."

Several of those testifying at a hearing in downtown Hartford cited
statistics about the rising death rate caused by opioid overdoses.
Federal experts counted more than 42,000 deaths relating to opioids in
2016, and the opioid death toll in Connecticut rose to 917 last year.
One point made repeatedly during Monday's testimony was that opioid
addiction is a plague that touches all economic and social groups.

Despite the testimony, the Board of Physicians tabled the proposal.
Members of the panel said they wanted more time to get additional
information from experts in those fields."I was like a zombie ... I
was thinking about running into a tree aE& I felt useless." - James
Preston, 57-year-old firefighter from Windham on using prescription

James Preston, a firefighter and EMT from Windham, said he was
prescribed a variety of opioid painkillers after he slipped on ice in
2014 and fractured his neck in three places. "I was like a zombie,"
Preston, 57, said of his life on narcotics. "I was thinking about
running into a treeaE& I felt useless."

Preston said he begged his doctor "for something different" but ended
up making and using his own marijuana oil. "It started getting
better," Preston recalled, his voice trembling. "I could get on a
firetruck right now and do my job. aE& I know if it wasn't for
cannabis oil, I wouldn't have made it."

Will Moffett, a Hartford resident, said his sister was prescribed
OxyContin three years ago for a medical condition. "My sister has
overdosed 10 times in the past year," said Moffett, who explained he
has used marijuana every day in his own successful battle to stay off
hard drugs.

"We desperately need in Connecticut an alternative treatment for
pain," said Gerry Craig, 64, a Shelton resident suffering from a
debilitating spinal condition. He said medical marijuana has enabled
him to significantly reduce his dependence on opioid painkillers. "If
it works for me, it can work for anyone," Craig said as he testified
from his wheelchair."We desperately need in Connecticut an alternative
treatment for pain." - Gerry Craig, 64, who is wheelchair-bound and
suffers chronic pain from his condition.

More than 30 people showed up to testify at Monday's hearing.

The board also considered adding albinism, nystagmus, osteogenesis
imperfecta, and progressive degenerative disc disease of the spine to
the marijuana program.

The Board of Physicians voted to recommend adding osteogenesis to the
state list of conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment for
adults and children, but rejected albinism and nystagmus, and is
planning to vote at a later date on whether to approve progressive
degenerative disc disease.

If recommended by the physicians' panel, a condition then must be
approved by the state commissioner of consumer protection and the
legislature's regulations review committee before a patient with that
disorder may be certified the state's medical marijuana program.

Connecticut already lists 22 medical conditions for adults that
qualify for medical marijuana certification and six conditions for
people under age 18.
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