Source: Robert MillerCanadian Medical Marijuana Exemption
Connecticut, US - In October, a certain set of people -- those with chronic illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease, or cancer patients suffering from the debilitating effects of chemotherapy -- can become certified, and legal, smokers of marijuana.
"That part of the law will be in place," William Rubenstein, state commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, said in a recent interview.
Where they get that marijuana will be, for the near future, up to them.
The state's system of growing, distributing and selling medical marijuana -- approved by the General Assembly last month and signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on June 1 -- will be a complicated business.
The regulations that will govern how growers in the state raise marijuana and how licensed pharmacists dispense it have yet to be written.
When they are, they'll have to pass muster at a public hearing and win the approval of the General Assembly's Legislative Review Committee.
"That can take a while," observed state Rep. Robert Godfrey of Danbury, who voted for the medical marijuana bill.
"We hope to have the entire law up and running sometime in 2013," Rubenstein said.
When that happens, the state will join 16 others in what is, in effect, both a medical and a social experiment -- whether Connecticut can successfully manage a system for the legal sale of marijuana, which the federal government still lists as an illegal drug.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML -- the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws -- said there have only been federal raids in states where there has been blatant abuse and disregard of state regulations, notably California.
"Generally speaking," St. Pierre said, "where people have been compliant, there hasn't been a problem."
Many doctors now see marijuana as an acceptable product to prescribe in the right situations.
"There are always new treatments, new modalities coming along," said Dr. Patrick Broderick, chairman of emergency medicine at Danbury Hospital and president of the Western Connecticut Medical Group.
"You don't want to be way out ahead of everybody, but you want to be able to help your patients. If we have another tool to help patients, that's a good thing," Broderick said.
Dr. Robert Kloss, an oncologist at the Praxair Cancer Center at Danbury Hospital and a doctor who works in hospice and palliative care, said patients are well-informed of what's happening in the other states where medical marijuana is legal, thanks to the Internet and a variety of social networks.
"People are very informed," Kloss said.
And, he said, there's strong anecdotal evidence -- if not rock-solid, double-blind medical studies -- that people get relief from smoking marijuana.
Kloss said people on chemotherapy use it to reduce nausea and as an appetite enhancer; people with colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease have reported a improvement in bowel function through smoking marijuana; people with multiple sclerosis say marijuana can control their tremors.
"There are receptors in the brain that are affected by cannabinoids," he said of the chemical compounds in cannabis (marijuana). "And these chemical agents do have beneficial effects."
They may include anti-inflammatory effects and effects on the immune system, Kloss said.
"There are studies in mice that show it may have an effect in cancer cell suppression," he explained.
Dr. Peter Rostenberg, an internist and family doctor in New Fairfield, said he has treated people with a serious addiction to marijuana and knows its effects.
But Rostenberg said he could see himself prescribing medical marijuana for some of his patients.
"If it's strictly regulated, it will be a benefit," he said.
The first laws allowing medical use of marijuana were passed in 1996 in California, St. Pierre of NORML said. Canada approved medical marijuana use in 2001.
Four states in New England now allow its use -- Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont.
St. Pierre said there has never been a study that shows the medical use of marijuana increases the number of auto accidents, workplace accidents or absenteeism at work.
"We've had a 15-year-long social experiment and nothing has happened," St. Pierre said. "The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. The tides turn twice a day. Nothing has changed."
Some people see the legalization of marijuana as a business opportunity.
Bob Heffernan, executive director of the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association, said he knows several growers in the state who have expressed an interest in growing marijuana under the state law.
That law stipulates that there can be no fewer than three, but no more than 10, growers in the state.
"I've had a lot of calls about it," Heffernan said.
That is because when marijuana is grown for the medical market, it will have to be grown in a greenhouse under controlled conditions.
The state's nursery industry -- which now accounts for half of the state's agriculture -- grows a lot of plants in greenhouses.
"We'd be the logical choice," he said.
Heffernan said no one has experience in growing marijuana legally in the state up to this point.
"All we can go on is the experience of other states," he said.
That experience, Heffernan noted, has shown it to be a lucrative business.
Godfrey said he once spoke to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer about medical marijuana.
"They're a farming state," he said. "Marijuana is a big part of their industry."
Likewise, Peter D'Aprile, owner of the English Apothecary in Bethel, said he is definitely interested in the program.
"I just got a call from someone working in a hospice about this," D'Aprile said about the availability of medical marijuana.
"It will help people that need help, and it will give me a new revenue stream," he said. "For me, it's a win-win situation."
On the other hand, pharmacist Jim Cangelosi, owner of the Brookfield Pharmacy, said as long as it's illegal under federal law, he'll steer clear of becoming a dispenser.
"I wouldn't want to make a big investment, then have the feds shut me down," Cangelosi said. "I don't run my business dealing with gray areas.
"This is a gray area."
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Connecticut, US - Medical marijuana becomes legal in October
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