Medical Marijuana Bill On Track To Become Law Oct. 1
HARTFORD, May 06, 2012 (Menafn - The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Connecticut is poised to become the 17th state to permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes following a 21-13 vote in the Senate early Saturday after nearly 10 hours of often-passionate debate.
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for medical marijuana. But advocates say the Connecticut proposal places some of the tightest restrictions in the nation on the cultivation and use of the drug in an effort to avoid problems that have cropped up elsewhere.
"When I looked at some of the other states that took what I thought was almost a Wild, Wild West approach of allowing people to grow plants at home and the lack of oversight and regulation, I did not believe it was the right thing for Connecticut to do, to emulate those states and those versions," Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he intends to sign the measure, which would take effect Oct. 1. "There are thousands of people in Connecticut who will likely benefit from this legislation as they struggle with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses," the governor said in a statement issued shortly after the votes were tallied at 2:34 a.m.
"We don't want Connecticut to follow the path pursued by some other states, which essentially would legalize marijuana for anyone willing to find the right doctor and get the right prescription," he added. "In my opinion, such efforts run counter to federal law. Under this proposal, however, the Department of Consumer Protection will be able to carefully regulate and monitor the medicinal use of this drug in order to avoid the problems encountered in some other states."
To qualify for medical marijuana in Connecticut, patients would need a physician's certification that they have a debilitating medical condition, such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy.
"Someone saying, 'I've got a headache,' [isn't] going to get a medical marijuana card," Erik Williams, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of NORML, said Saturday. There will be "no storefront, walk-in service," he added. "This is medicine and it's going to be treated like that."
Williams said that Connecticut's Constitution, which does not contain a mechanism that permits citizens to force a vote on matters of public policy, made for a better bill. In other states, medical marijuana was legalized by ballot initiative; in Connecticut, it was accomplished through the legislative process.
Under the proposal, marijuana would be dispensed only by pharmacists who obtained a special license.
When Connecticut lawmakers first pondered permitting the medical use of marijuana more than a decade ago, it was primarily stoners and people from "the radical left" who favored the bill as a way to force social change on marijuana policy, said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield.
But as the years went by, lawmakers began hearing from medical professionals. They also heard harrowing, deeply personal stories from people coping with chronic and serious illnesses about the role that marijuana plays in their medical treatment.
Kissel and three other Republican senators backed the proposal: Andrew Roraback of Goshen, Kevin Witkos of Canton and Anthony Guglielmo of Stafford. Three Democrats -- Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Joan Hartley of Waterbury and Gayle Slossberg of Milford -- opposed it. Two senators, Edith Prague, D-Columbia, and Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, were absent.
Sen. Toni Boucher, who began speaking before 6 p.m. Friday and was still going strong at 2 a.m. Saturday, led the opposition. The Republican from Wilton cited studies, statistics and anecdotes during her filibuster.
Boucher, who views marijuana as a "gateway drug" that destroys lives, offered to drop her opposition if lawmakers amended the bill to limit medical marijuana use only to those facing a terminal illness. That amendment, as well as six subsequent ones, failed.
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