Governor Rell Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill, , Changing Her Reasons for Opposition to Issue Yet Again
Patients, Community Members Ask: Governor Rell, As a Cancer Survivor, How Do You Sleep At Night While Patients In Our State Continue to Be Criminalized for Seeking Relief?
HARTFORD, CT--Today, Governor M. Jodi Rell vetoed HB 6715, the Compassionate Use Act. The bill would have allowed certain patients with debilitating illnesses to use marijuana for medical purposes as recommended by their physician. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 23-13 after clearing the House of Representatives by an 89-58 vote weeks earlier, both of which were wide margins.
By passing HB 6715, the Legislature ended a five-year legislative battle to win medical marijuana in a state that has overwhelming public support for the issue. A 2004 University of Connecticut poll found that 83 percent of Connecticut residents support the medical use of marijuana. Dozens of community organizations, including the CT Nurses Association, support allowing patients to access medical marijuana when recommended by their physician.
"I am just 32 years old and 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. If Gov. Rell had any compassion for people like me who are suffering with horrible pain and other debilitating illnesses, she would have signed this bill."
After the bill's passage, patients, doctors, family members and advocates mounted a massive letter and phone call campaign urging the Governor to sign the bill. The Governor was receiving hundreds of phone calls and letters every day in support of medical marijuana, including from medical, legal, and health experts from across the country.
"The Governor's veto message shows that she's grasping for straws," said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation. "She said previously that she'd support the bill if it was only for terminally ill patients, because clearly other treatments are not sufficient. Now she says she's vetoing the bill because it's still illegal under federal law, even though over 99% of all marijuana arrests are under state law. She has been so evasive on this that it makes one wonder if she hasn't gotten a call from Washington. Is she taking the advice from the worst administration in history over the demands of 83% of Connecticut residents?"
Thousands of Connecticut residents live with crippling pain, are suffering with cancer and HIV/AIDS, or other debilitating ailments. HB 6715 would have allowed Connecticut residents with certain debilitating medical conditions to cultivate and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a practicing physician.
"It's unconscionable that Rell would ignore all the science to veto this bill," said Gabriel Sayegh, project director at the Drug Policy Alliance. "The medical efficacy of marijuana is unassailable. As a result of this veto, patients who use marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering will continue to be criminalized. Governor Rell has essentially signed an arrest warrant for people with cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis."
Currently, there are 12 states with medical marijuana laws. New Mexico passed its medical marijuana bill in March. Last month, the Rhode Island legislature voted to make their state law permanent, and last week Vermont's legislature voted to expand their medical marijuana law. Other medical marijuana bills are currently under consideration in New Jersey, New York and Alabama.
Dawn Fuller Ball, President of A Better Way Foundation said, "In Governor Rell's veto letter, she admits that the current legal pharmacology alternatives to medical marijuana are insufficient and that the State law enacted in 1981 is unworkable, yet the Governor continues to choose politics over patients."
Background Info: Governor Rell is Saying NO to Medical Marijuana When Connecticut Says YES:
- CT's voters voted YES (83% approval rating in polls from UCONN polls to media polls)
- Five Separate Legislative Committees voted YES
- The House of Representatives voted YES (89-58)
- The Senate voted YES (23-13)
- This is a Republican sponsored bill (By some of most respected Republicans in the House and Senate)
- The Black and Latino Caucus supports this bill (The President and Treasurer met with Rell's staff)
- Faith Based Institutions voted YES (National and local pastors and Bishops have contacted Governor Rell)
- Doctors, nurses, patients, and caregivers testified, wrote letters and called the Governor's office on behalf of medical marijuana.