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The Public Health Committee voted 20 to 7 Monday to move forward a proposal that would allow minors with certain medical conditions to use medical marijuana.

Under the proposal, minors would be allowed to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program if they have one of six conditions and permission from a parent or guardian, their primary care provider, and a physician who specializes in the patient’s condition. The qualifying conditions would be: severe epilepsy, a terminal illness that requires end-of-life care, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorders, and irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.

The forms of marijuana minors in the program could receive would be restricted to those that are not smoked, vaporized or inhaled.

Committee co-chair Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said the measure would give an option to “people in serious pain and families in agony,” noting that there are children in Connecticut who suffer from medical conditions for which marijuana has been shown to be helpful but who cannot legally use it.

This is a picture of Medical marijuana products available for sale at Prime Wellness, a dispensary in South Windsor.
Medical marijuana products available for sale at Prime Wellness, a dispensary in South Windsor. Arielle Levin Becker /

Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, a physician who voted for the bill, acknowledged that the bill’s critics have raised concerns about the impact of marijuana on children’s developing brains. But he said a child’s brain can also be impacted by having hundreds of seizures per week.

“This is an option that will be decided by professionals,” said Srinivasan, the top GOP House member on the committee.

But Rep. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said he was voting against it because of concerns he’s heard from people who work with young people in his town that legalizing marijuana in any form could send a message that it’s alright to experiment with the drug.

Opponents of the proposal have said more research must be done before allowing children access to the drug.

Connecticut is one of 23 states – in addition to Washington, D.C., and Guam – that allow for “comprehensive” medical marijuana programs, but the only one of those that does not allow access for minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Several parents of children with debilitating seizure disorders testified during a recent public hearing on the bill. Some said the legal medications their children take have severe side effects.

One of the children who attended the hearing died shortly afterward. Cyndimae Meehan, 13, who had a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, sat on her mother’s lap as her mom, Susan Meehan, told legislators that they moved from Connecticut to Maine so Cyndimae could have access to a form of marijuana to treat her frequent and debilitating seizures. She said that had produced a dramatic reduction in Cyndimae’s seizures and a significant improvement in her quality of life.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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