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A case for the legalization medical marijuana in Connecticut

By Sam Tracy
On February 23, 2012

Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states (and our nation's capital). Connecticut is not one of those states, although we have come very close over the past few years. In 2007, both houses of the state legislature passed medical marijuana legislation, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell.

"I am troubled by the fact that, in essence, this bill forces law abiding citizens to seek out drug dealers to make their marijuana purchases," she said.

Last year, it looked like Connecticut would become the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana, but opponents of drug policy reform were able to stall the bills, allowing only enough time for the legislature to pass marijuana decriminalization.

What is stopping the bill's passage is not a lack of support, but merely a lack of prioritization. Governor Malloy supports the bill (he introduced it last year), some of its most vocal backers are Republican (a rarity in the current political climate) and polls show that 79 percent of Connecticut voters are in support. After being on the edge of legalization for some time now, lawmakers in Connecticut should make medical marijuana a priority and finally pass it this year.

While not a panacea, medical marijuana can be incredibly helpful for a wide range of serious diseases and ailments. The medical community recognizes that marijuana can help alleviate the negative effects of cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.

The medical use of marijuana has also been endorsed by a large number of respected medical organizations, including the American Public Health Association the Connecticut Nurses Association, and the French Ministry of Health. It is clear that marijuana is a medicine that can help improve the lives of large numbers of people, and it is terrible that our state continues to deny it to the terminally ill, veterans, the elderly and others who would benefit from its use.

When talking to people about the need for medical marijuana, some have told me that it's no longer necessary, because marijuana is decriminalized. Thanks to this new law, possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana is an infraction for which you receive a ticket, rather than a misdemeanor that will get you arrested. Some people argue that since marijuana is decriminalized for all people, people who need it as medicine have no need to worry about being arrested for using it. But while decriminalization is a sensible public policy, it is no replacement for medical marijuana. Those who need it, who are elderly or physically handicapped, are unlikely to have access to marijuana, as producing it is still illegal and its sale is relegated to the black market. The stigma created by its illegality also makes it socially unacceptable for people to use marijuana, even for medical purposes. Legalizing medical marijuana would provide a method for providing it to those who need it, whether it is allowing them to grow their own or licensing dispensaries to provide it to people with certifications from their doctors.

People often ask me why I, a healthy young person, am such a vocal advocate for medical marijuana. While I certainly don't need it, and hope I never do, I have friends and family who would likely benefit from its use. And, while it is scary to think about, it's likely that I will eventually have a condition that would be helped by medical marijuana. According to the American Cancer Society, males have a 45 percent chance of developing cancer at some point in their lifetime, and females have a 38 percent chance. If only those who are currently sick advocate for this issue, it will never become law. But if medical marijuana is advocated for by everyone who knows someone it can help, and everyone who has a chance of needing it in the future, we can pass it this year. 

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