HARTFORD — A measure allowing patients to use marijuana prescribed by
a doctor to ease symptoms of a debilitating illness won the emphatic
blessing of a legislative committee Wednesday only hours after a poll
showed the bill has strong public support.
Lawmakers on the judiciary committee voted 35-8 in favor of the bill, which now goes to the House for consideration.
This is not the legislature's first attempt to pass such a bill. Lawmakers passed a medical marijuana
bill in 2007, but Gov.M. Jodi Rell vetoed it. Last year, a similar bill
had the backing of Gov.Dannel P. Malloy but failed to become law,
although lawmakers did approve the decriminalization of a small amount
This year, legislators said, they changed the bill to quell lingering questions about how patients would obtain the drug.
"It's the hope that this bill … can address many of the
concerns that people have while still allowing for the relief of those
who came to testify before us," said committee Co-Chairman Gerald Fox,
House Bill 5389 allows a physician to prescribe
marijuana to a patient, who would obtain the drug at a licensed
dispensary. The prescription would be limited to one year.
"Everybody would have to be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection," Fox said.
If approved, Connecticut would become the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana.
A Quinnipiac University
poll released Wednesday morning found broad support for the bill.
Connecticut voters approve of permitted chronically ill patients to use
marijuana with a physician's prescription, 68 percent to 27 percent.
During the hour-long debate, several Republicans on the committee expressed concerns about how the proposal would intersect with federal drug policies.
sorry I just can't find a way to understand …[why] we're sidestepping a
federal law when we wink … and tell the doctors it's OK [when] the
federal government says no," Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said.
Rep. Arthur O'Neill, "I have a hard time voting for this bill, though I
feel an enormous amount of sympathy for the people suffering the pain."
said he would feel more comfortable backing the measure if lawmakers
had consulted with the U.S. attorney for Connecticut to determine how he
would handle the law. Committee Co-Chairman Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, said he was agreeable to that idea.
Sen. John Kissel of Enfield,
the ranking Republican on the committee, said he was won over to the
cause many years ago, after talking with Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, whose
late husband relied on medical marijuana to ease the debilitating pain
of bone cancer. Sympathy And Civil Lawsuits
The judiciary committee also backed a bill that would permit a person convicted of a seriousmotor
vehicle offense — resulting in death or serious physical injury — to
express sympathy to the victim or victim's family in open court without
fear their comments would be admissible as evidence in a civil lawsuit.
who backs the bill, said he has heard heart-rending stories of lifelong
friends involved in a serious accident where a lawyer tells the person
at fault not to say anything to the victim. Recording Police Activity
bill that codifies the public's right to videotape police officers also
won the backing of the judiciary committee, 31-12. Senate Bill 245 says
that members of the public should not be interfered with when recording
the activities of the police, unless the officer has a reasonable
belief that taping would interfere with an investigation, violate the
privacy of a victim ,or affect the public's safety.
A similar bill failed to win approval last year.
Genetically Modified Food
has taken the first step to require producers to label food that has
been genetically modified. The environment committee voted 23-6 to
approve the legislation Wednesday.
Lawmakers who said they want to
protect consumers prevailed over other legislators who said the new
packaging rules would drive up costs.
The federal government and
states do not require labeling for all genetically modified foods.
Connecticut is among nearly 20 states considering a requirement.
say genetically engineered foods pose allergy
and other health risks and labels give consumers valuable information.
The state Department of Agriculture opposes the legislation.
Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said in an interview that it's the
responsibility of the federal government to set national standards.
The food labels report was provided by the Associated Press.