A bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana as a palliative in Connecticut has been signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Connecticut is the 17th state to legalize marijuana for the chronically ill. The law limits access to those adults whose doctors certify in writing their patient can benefit from its use.

Legalization, which was approved in a 117-64 vote by the General Assembly earlier this year, was previously vetoed in 2007 by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Advocates for medical marijuana greeted legislators at the state Capitol at the beginning of the legislative session

Objections waged by Republican legislators centered on four points:

  • The drug causes more harm than it provides relief.
  • Illegal use would expand, particularly among youth, who would perceive it as medicinal, not harmful.
  • Criminal activity would increase, exploiting the challenges of regulating legal marijuana production and distribution.
  • And that federal statutes outlawing marijuana use not only would expose patients, but also physicians, pharmacies and any other businesses involved in production or distribution to civil and criminal liability.

Democratic legislators insisted the bill has the appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that only those with chronic illness get legal marijuana.

“California is the best example of how not to do medical marijuana,” Sen. Eric Coleman, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said before the vote. “If such abuses are allowed, the feds should step in… We’ve got sufficient framework.”

Marijuana cannot be readily inserted into the existing system of prescription drugs, whose production, efficacy and purity are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, prescribed by doctors and dispensed by pharmacists.

But the legislation would allow physicians to “certify” a need for the drug, an approximation of prescribing it. The written certification would be available only to persons suffering from certain chronic diseases.

The diseases listed in the bill are cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable spasticity arising from spinal damage.

The Department of Consumer Protection could add diseases to the list based on the approval of a review panel.

The cannabis would be grown indoors in secure facilities and sold at dispensaries, not in drugstores. The Department of Consumer Protection would license and oversee growers and sellers. No more than 10 growers and 10 dispensaries would be licensed.

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