Hartford, CT--Today, patients, caregivers, religious leaders and their allies gathered outside the ballroom of the Downtown Hartford Hilton Hotel to urge Gov. M. Jodi Rell to sign HB 6715, the Compassionate Use Act. While Gov. Rell continues to waver on signing the bill, hundreds and hundreds of patients, doctors, and Connecticut residents have called her office, asking for her support for the legislation. The press conference was held at the Institute for Community Research's 2nd annual international conference. The Crossroads conference brings together researchers and experts in public health, public safety, and education from around the country and world.
Late last Friday, HB 6715 passed the Senate on a vote of 23-13. The week earlier, the House passed the bill, 89-58. The bill had previously been debated in the legislature for five years. The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Coalition includes patients, doctors, nurses, caregivers, family members, educators and education administrators, religious leaders, treatment experts, public safety and law enforcement experts, and allies from across Connecticut
"I am just 32 years old, yet due to my medical condition I feel as if, at times, I am 92," said Joshua Warren, a patient in Wilton, CT, who suffers from chronic neurological Lyme disease. "I did not ask for this condition nor would I wish any of my pain and other symptoms on anyone else. Whether I'm considered a patient with medicine or a criminal is up to Gov. Rell. I hope she has compassion for me and others and signs this bill."
Groups and residents in Connecticut strongly support medical marijuana. A recent University of Connecticut poll found that 83 percent of Connecticut residents support passage of medical marijuana. The measure has also been endorsed by the CT Nurses Association, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, the American Bar Association, AIDS Life Campaign, NAACP, and the Episcopal Church, and many more.
"As a pastor please know that I would not recommend anything that would encourage unhealthy behavior for persons," said Rev. Dr. Barbara E. Headleybut. "But I do not believe that the passing of this bill will encourage or deter young persons from attempting to get or use marijuana. They will do that anyway because of peer pressure. It is my job and the job of others on the front lines to continue to reach our young people with a message of hope as an alternative to drugs. But the message for those with illnesses that others can not begin to imagine the pain of living with need the hope of something that will allow them to live each day with less pain, more function and dignity."
A historic bi-partisan legislative coalition has formed to support HB 6715. On the last day of the session, bill sponsor Rep. Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers), Deputy Speaker of the House Marie Kirkley-Bey (D- Hartford), and the executive committee of the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus, Rep. Don Clemens (D-Bridgeport) and Rep. Ernest Hewitt (D-New London), met with the top staff of Governor M. Jodi Rell to ask for the Governor's support. The group left the office without a commitment.
"I used to be dogmatic in opposing this legislation," said Rep. Kirkely-Bey. "But when I saw my two cousins suffer terribly from cancer, it caused me to re-think my position. They died in pain, I wouldn't want anyone to suffer that way again. If marijuana can help some patients, we must allow doctors to make this determination. I would have done anything to ease the suffering of my family members in pain."
Currently, 12 states have passed effective medical marijuana bills into law, including Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Other medical marijuana bills are under consideration in such states as Alabama, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee.
"In talking to people throughout Connecticut, I discovered that people support this issue across racial, social, economic, and geographic lines," said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation. "When HB 6715 passed the Legislature, people who I'd never heard from called our office crying, not because they were happy about the bill passing but because they hadn't seen Republicans and Democrats move in lock-step in CT like this in so long."
Mr. Jones said the support for medical marijuana was so strong throughout the state because the issue was so deeply personal for so many Connecticut residents. "One woman from New Britain simply called and cried through her entire message on my cell phone, while her mother who is living with cancer was in the background crying. The mother was in the background crying and yelling 'this is my bill, this is my life thank you so much'".