HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - Connecticut health care professionals joined legislators at the Capitol today to voice support for compassionate medical marijuana legislation.
Dr. Andrew Salner, Director of the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Harford Hospital* offered his perspective as an oncologist based on years of treating cancer patients who underwent toxic chemotherapy treatments. For some, the only thing that helped to relieve their nausea and help suppress their appetite was smoking marijuana.
Mary Jane Williams spoke on behalf of the CT Nurses Association. She stated that this past fall, the CT Nurses Association passed a resolution at their annual meeting in support of medical marijuana and that they are actively working to help pass this year's bill.
Dr. Nancy Sheehan, a CT physician at the University of Connecticut* and widower of a medical marijuana patient, stated, "I saw my husband go through chemotherapy. As a physician, I utilized my knowledge to ask the right questions, but unfortunately, traditional medication did not help those symptoms. After Jim began using the marijuana he was not 100%, but his quality of life drastically improved. Prior to his use of marijuana he often talked about life, as it was, not being worth living."
If passed, HB 6578 An Act Concerning the Use of Medical Marijuana, will allow doctors to provide certificates to qualifying patients who they believe would benefit from the medical use of marijuana. The patient or designated caregiver would then be allowed to grow up to five plants in a secured place in their own home. The patient would have to register with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.
Robert Rooks, Executive Director of the A Better Way Foundation, said "Simply put, all this bill does is protect seriously ill patients from being prosecuted for following a doctor's recommendation, and lets doctors recommend to their patients a drug they think will help relieve their symptoms when they are suffering most."
A bi-partisan team of legislators joined Connecticut doctors and nurses in support of this year's bill. Rep. Penny Bacchiochi stated (R-Somers), "This is third year I have worked with my legislative colleagues to pass compassionate and workable legislation to protect citizens who use marijuana for medical purposes. The bill goes straight to the heart of the matter - keeping sick people out of jail."
Senator Toni Harp (D-New Haven) added "I am pleased to support this bill because it will help those suffering from painful and debilitating disease."
Sen. John Kissel (R-Enfield) stated "When people are suffering from the effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatments, they should be able to use Medical Marijuana to help alleviate their suffering. Hopefully, this year we can pass a bill that is both balanced and will help those people that are battling tremendous illnesses and diseases."
And Rep. Melissa Olson (D-Norwich) remarked, "This bill is not about law and order, crime and punishment or legalizing drugs. This bill is about easing people's pain and alleviating human suffering".
Lastly, Connecticut residents overwhelmingly support the medical use of marijuana. According to a recent poll by the UConn Center for Survey and Research Analysis, 83 percent of Connecticut residents think adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor prescribes it.
Legislative History: Last year, HB 5355 AAC The Medical Use of Marijuana came remarkably close to becoming law. It passed through the Judiciary, Appropriations and Public Health Committees, all on bi-partisan votes. Then, after a long debate, the bill passed the House on a vote of 75 to 71. It was referred to the Finance Committee next, where it passed again with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, by this time, there was not enough time for another floor debate in the House.
*For identification purposes only. This does not constitute an endorsement by this organization.
A Better Way Foundation is a Connecticut non-profit organization
that is dedicated to a sensible shift in drug policy
from one of incarceration to substance abuse treatment and public health.