Legalized Marijuana Goes To Conn. Legislature
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Legalized Marijuana Goes To Conn. Legislature
Posted by CN Staff on March 14, 2011 at 09:27:37 PT
By Mary E. O’Leary
Source: New Haven Register
Connecticut -- Penny Bacchiochi doesn’t want anyone to have to go through what she did to ease the suffering of a loved one dying of cancer. “Twenty years later, I still remember the fear I felt. It is not right to put someone through that, who is only acting on the advice of a doctor,” Bacchiochi said of her illegal purchase of marijuana to ease her husband’s nausea. When all other medications had failed, the marijuana helped his appetite and stabilized his weight after he had lost 80 pounds from chemotherapy treatments.
Her husband succumbed to the disease, but Bacchiochi, the Republican state representative from Somers, has been campaigning for the past seven years for the state to allow the medical use of marijuana, a measure that cleared the General Assembly in 2007, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell.This year, with the support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the leadership of state Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, it has a better chance of passing.Lawmakers will also take up separate legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and to allow judges the option of home arrest for certain nonviolent drug offenses involving less than 4 ounces of marijuana.The bills are offered as an update of the state’s marijuana laws that proponents say will save money and bring Connecticut into line with 15 other states on the use of medical marijuana and a growing number that have decriminalized personal use of less than an ounce of marijuana, includingMassachusetts. That state passed it overwhelmingly two years ago by referendum.“It takes away the specter of arrest for otherwise law-abiding people,” said Michael Lawlor, referring to the medical marijuana bill. Lawlor, the former longtime representative from East Haven and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is now Malloy’s criminal policy adviser in the Office of Policy and Management.A poll released by the Quinnipiac Polling Institute this month found 79 percent of voters were in favor of the medical marijuana bill, while 65 percent felt it was time to stop treating possession of small amounts of pot as a crime. Being Able To Enjoy a Meal  Ken, 61, a stage four pancreatic cancer patient who lives in the Danbury area, was always trim, but after aggressive amounts of chemotherapy, his weight dropped precipitously from 160 pounds to 136 pounds.“This is not curable. I’ll be on chemotherapy for life,” Ken said of the two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off routine he has been undergoing since his diagnosis in September. “My appetite was my biggest problem. It was painful to eat food,” he said, and medications for nausea weren’t working.It wasn’t until he started to smoke marijuana before meals that he was able to keep his food down. “Now I can eat a regular meal and enjoy it. I can get some nourishment in me,” said Ken, whose weight has climbed back to 144 pounds.“I definitely hope this law passes. I think it is ridiculous that it (marijuana) is not available to people with cancer,” he said.Ken, who continues to work from home as a health care advocate when his cancer treatments are not too tiring, said he is only interested in using the drug for medical purposes.“I’m not looking to get high,” he said.The legislation protects patients and their caregivers who have a certificate from a physician attesting to their need for the drug. This gets around federal prohibitions against doctors writing prescriptions for marijuana.The debilitating conditions listed in the bill include cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma.Lawlor said the law would allow patients to grow four marijuana plants no taller than 4 feet high for their own use. Connecticut however, wouldn’t be like California, which has a system of dispensaries for medical pot, and the proposed bill leaves unanswered how patients would obtain the seeds to grow these plants.“It doesn’t seem to be a big problem to get your hands on it,” Lawlor said of marijuana in general, although sellers would still be subject to prosecution and actually legalizing marijuana is not in the cards.Outside of medical needs, a separate bill would decriminalize possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. It would treat it as an infraction, similar to a parking ticket, where people 18 years of age and over would pay a $100 fine.Looney said prosecution for small amounts of marijuana “is a misappropriation of criminal justice policy,” which brands offenders with a record and consumes court resources that could be put to better use.“At the end of the day, cases are usually concluded with some kind of dismissal, but the process to get there is elaborate,” Lawlor said, referring to court time, record keeping and personnel from the public defender’s office. Flawed Drug Policies A study by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis of a similar bill proposed in 2009 that would have decriminalized possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana found that the Superior Court handles 2,700 cases each year for minor drug possession, with three-quarters of them involving marijuana, at an estimated cost of $970,000 in court resources.The total number of marijuana arrests for persons over age 18 in 2007 was 8,118, representing 5.7 percent of total arrests statewide, with 76 percent involving less than half an ounce of the drug. Assuming an equivalency of resources allocated to each arrest regardless of type, the cases represented $3.8 million in state costs and $26.2 million for local law enforcement, according to OFA.“Our drug policies have been flawed for a long time. I’d like to think there is growing support for the bills. This is all related to finding cost efficiencies in the criminal justice system,” Looney said.Malloy, in his budget message last month, said he hopes to save millions with new incarceration policies for some nonviolent offenders.The third bill under consideration would give judges the option of house arrest for those now serving mandatory time for second and third offenses involving possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana. About 50 individuals are incarcerated at Bergin Correctional Institution in Somers for these offenses.“Despite the reforms of the past decade, we are still spending money we don’t need to spend imprisoning people who, if given access to the treatment they need, would pose no threat to any of us. And who can eventually become productive members of our society. This new policy will save us millions of dollars, which is a benefit of a more enlightened policy whose time I think has come,” Malloy said in the address.The bill would also apply to the 300 individuals at Bergin who are serving mandatory prison time related to multiple arrests for driving under the influence. Opposition Remains The medical marijuana bill, decriminalization of possession of small amounts of the drug and the option of house arrest for some minor drug offenses are all the subject of a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Monday.While the use of pot for medical purposes passed the state Senate 32-13 and the state House 89-58 in 2007, opposition remains to that bill, as well as the decriminalization effort, and will again be led by state Sen. Antoniette Boucher, R-Wilton, who is convinced more than ever that they are bad ideas.“I call it the get-soft-on-crime program. It’s the get-out-of-jail-free state and puts us in exactly the opposite direction than we should be going,” Boucher said.She opposes decriminalization on health grounds, as well as calling it bad criminal policy, and cited numerous studies that point to memory, heart, lung and immune-suppression problems tied to marijuana.Boucher said states that had approved medical marijuana are now reconsidering it, with the Montana state House voting last month to rescind it. Approved in 2004 by 64 percent of the vote, there is a split between those who want reforms of the law, where medical usage has exploded through a Wild West approach to marketing, versus those who want it repealed.“This is not your 1970s pot. It’s 10 times greater in strength,” she said, and it is making a comeback among high school students with numerous studies being conducted on the effect on teenagers.“We are in the business of protecting health and safety. Why go in the opposite direction?” she asked.Support for allowing patients access to medical marijuana has supporters of all ages. Lindsay, 26, who lives in northeastern Connecticut, suffers from Crohn’s disease, as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome from an abusive relationship.Permanently disabled, she said the pain medication prescribed for her had left her housebound and made it difficult for her to care for her young son. Weaning herself off those medications and using marijuana for pain and to stimulate her appetite, she feels in control of her life. She is back in college and close to getting her degree.“The law is outdated. If it improves someone’s life and doesn’t hurt anyone, why make it illegal? I’m not using it as a form of entertainment,” she said. She would like to see the state go one step further so it is controlled, both in terms of purity and cost.If the Crohn’s symptoms are acting up, she said she needs it more than other days. On the most basic level, “it helps me get up in the morning and make my kid’s breakfast.”Source: New Haven Register (CT)Author: Mary E. O’LearyPublished: March 13, 2011Copyright: 2011 New Haven RegisterContact: letters nhregister.comWebsite: http://www.nhregister.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on March 15, 2011 at 23:15:37 PT
"May God bless every plant grown for its intended use, and protect those in need."Amen.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on March 15, 2011 at 23:12:36 PT
"Wild animals eating her bones from the inside out".Years ago you told us once before about this lady and how she described her terrible bone pain. Obviously someone very dear to you. I could hardly fathom what the above statement meant then. I understand all too well now.
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Comment #2 posted by disvet13 on March 15, 2011 at 15:27:21 PT:
depart from me
i pray every day for God's Grace to make it thru another day, but my heart tells me Kap may get this one right. Prohibitionists are in it for the money and their own agenda's. May God bless every plant grown for its intended use, and protect those in need.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on March 14, 2011 at 15:39:41 PT:
One of the surest ways of identifying
a drug prohibitionist. In most cases, you only need to know their political affiliation. Just look for an upper-case letter "R" after their names.I cared for a 79 year old lady who survived horrific radical cancer surgery and then chemo. I know from very close observation the terrible pain that comes from such 'treatments'. The nausea. The feeling, as she put it, that 'wild animals were eating her bones from the inside out'. I had broached the subject of cannabis after her first chemo, but she had heard about forfeiture, knew that her daughter was so poor that she would never have her own house as a bequest if it was seized, and made the decision to stay on the (eventually useless) narcotics the doctors prescribed for her - mainly so she would go home and die quietly and not bother them.Every day, I cursed my own helplessness...and the prohib monsters who called themselves 'human' for their ignorance, heartlessness and spite, for denying the suffering what has proven so good at alleviating it.As a result, I do, most heartily, wish that such sadomoralists as this Boucher woman is stricken with something both godawfully painful and so reducing of quality of life that she suffers miserably to the very end, as that poor cancer victim I tended to did. May she find Hell waiting for her...not in some Afterlife, but on Earth in the here-and-now. Such as her deserve nothing less.
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