REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE
TITLE OF BILL:
AN ACT PROHIBITING PLEA BARGAINING WITH RESPECT TO A CHARGE OF THE ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF A FIREARM.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
Connecticut residents, who suffer from debilitating medical conditions, want to legalize the medical use of marijuana in order to avoid criminal prosecutions.
Substitute Language: Strike everything after the enacting clause and replace this bill with HB 6578, An Act Concerning the Medical Use of Marijuana.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Representative Jim Abrams, 83rd District – Connecticut residents overwhelmingly support the medical use of marijuana. According to a recent poll by the UConn Center for Survey and Research Analysis, 83 percent of Connecticut residents think adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor prescribes it.
Sally Loughin, People Against Injustice – This is the right time to vote for this bill. Certain very ill people benefit from smoking marijuana, there is no good reason not to allow doctors to recommend it so that these individuals can grow a few plants and get what they need without having to also worry about doing something illegal. This will not affect any other people. Let’s make it legal for the ill people who actually need it to help alleviate their suffering.
Representative Penny Bacchiochi, 52nd District – If this bill passes in Connecticut, we will join eleven other states in supporting our seriously ill citizens and protecting them from arrest, fines, court posts, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation and criminal records. To be effective, a medical marijuana bill must remove criminal penalties for patients who use, possess and grow marijuana with their doctor’s approval. Removing criminal sanctions is at the core of all effective medical marijuana legislation, but the reality is that either a person meets the criteria for a medical marijuana usage or he does not.
Marijuana was legal for all uses until 1937. By the time the federal government implemented the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, medical marijuana use seemed forgotten and marijuana was, in my opinion, mistakenly placed in Schedule I, defining it as having no currently accepted medical use. Because of its Schedule I status, doctors cannot write a prescription for it without breaking the law. This is the problem with the 1981 legislation that was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly. Doctors do not want to risk sanctions by writing a prescription, and pharmacies are not allowed under federal law to dispense marijuana. So while the intent of our legislature in 1981 was compassionate and recognized the medical usage of marijuana, the technical aspects have not worked out. Again, I point out that this Connecticut legislature did have the intent of allowing medical marijuana usage more than twenty years ago. Please see CGS 21a-246 and 21a-253 for further reference.
The division of power between federal and state government is extremely advantageous to patients who need to use marijuana for medical purposes; because 99% of all marijuana arrests in the nation are made by state and local – not federal officials. Favorable state laws can effectively protect 99 out of 100 medical marijuana users. I can testify to you, and under oath, or in any court, medical marijuana works. It works for some people who have tried every other drug without success. It works for people who have tried Marinol without success. Medical marijuana can give quality of life to those who have lost it.
Dr. Robert Painter, Assistant Professor of Surgery at the UConn School of Medicine and Dentistry – Numerous scientific studies, including those sponsored by the federal government, show that marijuana in some instances is the most effective therapy for the nausea and poor appetite in patients with advanced cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy. Further, studies show that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is not as effective when extracted from the plant and given in pill form.
Luis Corzo – I was diagnosed HIV positive in 1989. Beginning in 1991, due to the side effects of the medications I was on, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome, neuropathy, and also couldn’t keep any food down. I wasn’t able to maintain the nutrients that my body needed to heal. Due to this major setback in my health, my T-cells began to drop dramatically. The doctors at the time decided that I had to stay on these medications, even though it was killing me.
A doctor specializing in HIV cases provided me with cannabis on a three-month trial period. We were shocked and amazed at the immediate results of the cannabis treatment. My chronic fatigue syndrome began to dissipate within two treatments, my neuropathy was eliminated within a month and a half, and I was able to keep down all of my food and life sustaining nutrients. My T-cells dramatically increased in three months. I became an active and productive member of society and I was able to return to full-time employment. Please legalize medical marijuana so people like me can have access to the quality of life that we deserve.
Lorraine Jalbert, Registered Nurse, Chair, Professional Practice Committee for the Connecticut Nurses’ Association – In October 2004, the Connecticut Nurses’ Association passed a resolution at their annual meeting establishing their position that patients should have safe access to therapeutic marijuana. Marijuana has a wide margin of safety for use under prescribed supervision and it is effective for numerous conditions that cannot cause lethal reactions. Many desperate patients and families risk breaking the law to gain access to marijuana for therapeutic use.
Nurses have an ethical obligation to be advocates for access to health care for all. We support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana under appropriate prescriber supervision; support legislation to remove criminal penalties, including arrest and imprisonment of bona fide patients and prescribers of therapeutic marijuana; and support the ability of the health care providers to discuss and/or recommend the medicinal use of marijuana without threat of intimidation, of penalization. This bill provides for those recommendations.
We also recommend the following: that we will continue to support research in controlled investigational trials on therapeutic efficacy of marijuana/cannabis, including alternative methods of our administration; and the education of registered nurses regarding current, evidence-based therapeutic use of marijuana.
Alice Ferguson – I am a 15-year survivor of HIV/AIDS. I suffered from the condition of AIDS Wasting. I was prescribed Marinol, a chemical equivalent to marijuana. I had success with this medication, as it gave me an appetite. I was able to regain the weight. However, a side effect of Marinol was that I lived each day in a fog. This was one of the times when the reality of death was close. Despite the debilitating effect of the Marinol, it was a source of hope. I was glad to be able to stop the use of Marinol because of the side effects. Later on, I suffered CMV retinitis, an AIDS related complication that causes blindness. Periodically, I remedied myself with the use of marijuana, despite the legal implications. It assisted in preventing me from becoming blind.
My most recent complication was the deterioration of both my hips. This is another common AIDS related complication. I was prescribed Vioxx, which thankfully I can say it did not work, in addition to several other prescription pain relievers. I became house-bound during that time. Once again, I chose to self-medicate with the use of marijuana. There has been absolutely no on-going addiction as a result of my intermittent use of marijuana. Please consider the advantage of medical marijuana being utilized under a doctor’s supervision. Turning this bill into law would give physicians an added tool in aiding in the recovery of many illnesses in addition to HIV and AIDS.
Dana Simmons, Waterbury – In 1997, I was diagnosed with a rare, chronic disorder called Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome/abnormal migraine, which is characterized by prolonged episodes of uncontrollable vomiting and retching, relentless nausea and excruciating abdominal pain.
My illness used to land me in the hospital twice a month for dehydration, pain and nausea control. Last year, I went to the hospital emergency room over 30 times. It was so bad that I became dependent on morphine. Even though the medication relieved my symptoms in the ER, often times, it was only for a few hours, thus requiring more narcotics in my system. This lifestyle was unmanageable and depressing. It was a vicious cycle between a state of handicap while on drugs and consistent agony while off drugs. I was sick every two weeks, for days at a time, and went to the hospital for almost every episode. I missed more than half my classes and spent most days suffering in bed.
I researched the pros and cons of marijuana and I realized that the positives of the drug far outweighed the negatives especially since I was so dependent on morphine. So I started smoking marijuana, which is supported by my doctor. For the past three months I have stayed out of the hospital. That is, until I ran out of my supply and had no means of obtaining more. Needless to say, I got sick and ended up in the hospital recently. The fact that this drug is illegal adds difficulty in my trying to make myself physically and mentally feel a lot better since I don’t get sick as much and my symptoms are controlled because of the anti-emetic and analgesic properties of marijuana, as well as the stimulating effects on your appetite.
Dr. Nancy C. Sheehan – As a physician, I have been practicing primary care medicine for over 20 years in Connecticut. During that time I have seen numerous patients who could have potentially benefited from the medical use of marijuana based on their symptoms and the scientifically based finding outlined in the 1999 IOM report on Medical Marijuana.
My deceased husband, Jim, was diagnosed with stage IV Colon Cancer at the age of 54 in July 2000. Then came 7 months of chemotherapy. As a wife and physician, I saw marijuana make Jim’s life tolerable, even enjoyable, again when no traditional medicine could. A friend had given him some marijuana hoping it would help and it did. Jim came back to living by using marijuana. It controlled his nausea, brought back his appetite and greatly alleviated his pain. He was able to finish his 7 months of chemotherapy. At the end of the chemo, CT scans and blood tests showed no evidence of disease. There is no doubt in my mind that marijuana made his life worth living when no other medication could. It gave us 2 more years of living, not just existing.
Mark Braunstein – In every state in this country where it’s come up for voter referendum, it has passed. I am a paraplegic, stemming from a spinal cord injury, but the symptoms are the same as multiple sclerosis. Among the symptoms of a spinal cord injury are spasms, which are involuntary muscle movements and the accompanying pain from those spasms. I do not take pharmaceutical drugs for my pain. I could take Dantrim and Valium for alleviating my spasms, they’re tranquilizers. I could take the narcotics: codine, Demerol, even morphine to alleviate the pain from those spasms. I don’t do any of them. The one drug that proves itself, not only safer than any of the narcotics but also more effective than the tranquilizers, in my condition is marijuana.
Dr. Andrew L. Salner, Director, Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center, Hartford Hospital – As a Cancer Center Director and Oncologist, I treat patients with cancer who suffer from a variety of symptoms, including pain, nausea and loss of appetite, amongst others. While we have a good series of medications to help control these symptoms in general, each individual patient needs to have an individually tailored treatment plan to help maximize their function and minimize side effects. Pain medications of the opioid classification such as morphine, antinausea medication such as zofran or compazine, or appetite stimulating medication such as megestrol each have their own set of potential issues or problems. While they work for most patients with cancer, there are a selected number who benefit from cannabinoids to help these types of symptoms. Marinol, a prescription drug of the cannabinoid type, has some of these benefits, but is not always tolerated well by patients. We know, by anecdote and some studies, that a selected group of patients clearly are helped by marijuana during their cancer experience.
I would therefore support the availability of medical marijuana for those selected patients who might benefit such as those with intractable nausea and vomiting who don’t benefit as well from the current group of anti-nausea medications. There’s also a group of patients who absolutely have lost appetite and have lost considerable amounts of weight. And those people may benefit from some of the appetite stimulation. In my practice, I think we’re talking about less than 1% of patients who would benefit from marijuana.
I believe that my fellow cancer physicians are universally supportive of this type of legislation, giving our patients more options and alternatives to alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Most notably, some patients near the end of life might benefit from this approach whereby their symptoms could be lessened and they might have fewer sedating or other side effects from some of their regular medications. This legislation would enable doctors and their patients to make this type of decision together for the patient’s benefit. It is likely that medical marijuana would only be prescribed for a limited minority of cancer patients. It is likely that it would be utilized in addition to other conventional medications, which all together would help alleviate symptoms.
Medical marijuana is not made with the same standards that a pharmaceutical would be made under FDA control. But by in large, it’s not as strong as many of the medications that we prescribe on a daily basis for our patients. As long as patients and physicians sort of reach a decision and patients and their families have the marijuana under their control, I think the abuse potential is very minimal. Abuse is a very rare event for cancer patients. Most patients would rather not be on medications if they could avoid it and most patients are careful about keeping their medications under their own control. We rarely see issues of abuse in the cancer patient population.
As far as doctor liability is concerned when writing prescriptions for medical marijuana, I’m not sure if it’s a malpractice issue as much as it would be a concern that the purity of the product is okay. And I know very little about the growing or preparation of marijuana. I haven’t prescribed medical marijuana, but if I were to prescribe it, my hope would be that there would be well-established guidelines for how they would acquire, grow and prepare their marijuana in such a way that it would be in an acceptable form.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
John Walters, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy – The Bush Administration has consistently followed the judgment of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that smoked marijuana is not an approved medicine. In addition to concerns over the lack of demonstrated medical efficacy of smoked marijuana and the well-demonstrated health risks, there is the further challenge presented by proposed state actions to the integrity of the drug approval process. By law, and for good reason, the FDA is the sole governmental entity charged with testing and approving new medications.
This bill would turn back the clock in Connecticut to an era without the safeguards and protections Americans enjoy today by making the decision about a substance one of politics, instead of one of science. The proponents of medical marijuana legislation or ballot initiatives in states have generally offered testimonials, not scientific data, that smoked marijuana helps patients suffering from AIDS, cancer and other painful diseases “feel better”. It should not surprise anybody that sincere people, after smoking marijuana, might report relief of any number of their symptoms. Marijuana is an intoxicant. The same report could made by people, be they ill or healthy, who inject heroin or smoke crack cocaine. But that is not, and never should be, the primary test for declaring a substance a recognized medication. The very foundation of our medical system, which relies on science, should not be easily manipulated by public opinion to determine what substances are safe and effective.
Proponents of so-called “medical” marijuana have sometimes cited a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Science regarding the medical value of marijuana, using the study to argue that the Federal government-sponsored study concluded that marijuana has medical value. This is misleading, and the record should be set straight. In January of 1997, the Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the study to conduct a comprehensive review of the known health effects and potential medical use of smoked marijuana. The review culminated in the 1999 report “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.” The report includes a recommendation against long-term medical use of smoked marijuana, due to the health risks associated with smoking, such as findings that marijuana smoke is an important risk factor in the development of respiratory diseases. The report also recognized that marijuana smoke is associated with increased risk of cancer, lung damage and poor pregnancy outcomes. Ultimately, the IOM report concluded that the usefulness of marijuana for medical purposes is limited by the harmful effects of smoking, and that because smoked marijuana is a crude delivery system that delivers harmful substances, any future for marijuana as medicine would not be as a smoked substance, but rather in being able to isolate its components in non-smoked form. The verdict of that report was that “marijuana is not a modern medicine.” The Institute was particularly troubled by the notion that crude marijuana might be smoked by patients, which it termed “a harmful drug-delivery system.”
Consistent with the findings of the IOM study, we have supported the ability of physicians to prescribe, in appropriate circumstances, medications that incorporate a synthetic of THC in non-smoked form. The medicine is called Marinol, and the FDA determines – after an appropriately rigorous inquiry – that when used as prescribed, the drug can be both safe and effective. It is worth noting that Marinol is not consumed as a smoked carcinogen.
Representative Toni Boucher, 143rd District – This bill does not just address a terminal illness. If it did I might vote in favor of it. Instead it opens the door for all chronic illnesses. This causes me to question the true motivation for this bill. This bill involves growing plants with little ability for monitoring or oversight.
States that already have passed laws authorizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes are in conflict with federal law that prohibits such possession and distribution of this controlled substance. This has also caused a problem within the insurance industry and the medical liability that prescribing marijuana would cause any doctor prescribing something that is in conflict with federal law.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Ashcroft, et al vs. McClary Raich, et al, found that there is “no evidence to suggest that smoked marijuana might be superior to currently available therapies for glaucoma, weight loss associated with AIDS, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, or intractable pain.” In addition, the FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for medical use, but they have approved at least two pharmaceutical forms of cannabinoids, Dronabinol and Nabilone,
both of which have been approved for a decade or more.
Dr. Mark L. Kraus, Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – We strongly oppose this bill. We are concerned that marijuana, a dangerous chemical with life-altering properties, is being considered for use as a viable medicine.
For those who are inclined to support medical use of marijuana, it is usually not the scientific evidence they consider, but only the unfounded self-reports of how marijuana relieved pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting or HIV-AIDS Wasting Syndrome. We are deeply concerned that the myths surrounding the medical use of marijuana pose a grave danger to patients. Proponents of the legalization of medical marijuana create the impression that it is a reasonable alternative to conventional drugs. But unlike conventional drugs, smokable marijuana has not passed the rigorous scrutiny of scientific investigation and has not been found safe and effective in treating pain, nausea and vomiting or wasting syndrome.
Unlike most conventional drugs administered orally, intravenously, intramuscularly or by epidermal patch, marijuana is smoked. Because it is smoked, marijuana contains the toxins, carcinogens and same health risks to patients as smoking cigarettes or other tobacco-laced products. For each symptom or disease advocated to be treated by smokable marijuana, there is a well-accepted, well-researched and more effective treatment.
This proposal to use smoked marijuana as a medicine convey a mixed and ambiguous message to children, adolescents and adults. This message undermines the many years invested by public health to prevent pre- and adolescent onset of the use of tobacco, marijuana and other drugs. This proposal provides real contradictions that are not easily addressed or resolved in school and in family discussions, especially where the images of the marijuana user intrude into the day-to-day lives of these young people. There is clear evidence that the use of marijuana can result in dependency. I can find no redeeming qualities derived from smoking a weed - marijuana.
David G. Evans, Executive Director, Drug Free Schools Coalition – Medical marijuana is bad medicine and this bill is bad public policy. Over the last three decades, the advocates of drug-legalization have employed a number of political and legal strategies to legitimize smoking marijuana. One of their strategies is to promote smoked marijuana as “medicine”. They provide misleading and inaccurate information that smoking marijuana can help ill people.
The FDA will not approve smoked marijuana as medicine because it does not meet the criteria for a safe and effective medicine. In an attempt to bypass the FDA, the medical marijuana proponents have attempted to legalize smoking marijuana as medicine by trying to pass state ballot initiatives and statutes. This seriously threatens the FDA process of approving safe medicines. It creates an atmosphere of medicine by popular vote, rather than the rigorous scientific and medical process that all medicines must currently undergo.
It is clear that use of medical marijuana bears substantial health risks especially for people at high risk for infection and immune suppression such as AIDS and cancer chemotherapy patients. It is no coincidence that those states with medical marijuana initiatives have among the highest levels of drug use and drug addiction. This bill will permit the possession of 5 marijuana plants that can produce up to 25 pounds of marijuana. This can amount to 11,350 joints. Why does anyone need that much marijuana for personal use?
Jeanette McDougal, Drug Abuse Prevention Educator – What is being called “medical marijuana” is toxic and tar-laden in any form. “Patients” generally are seeking the “high” producing chemical, THC, one of the 66 bioactive chemicals found only in marijuana.
Smoking weed for medicine is the pharmacological equivalent of eating moldy bread for penicillin or eating poppy seeds for morphine. All contain contaminants; the FDA approves none in their raw form. Physicians worldwide are concerned about their liability, should harm result to their patients if they recommend marijuana.
There already has been “medical marijuana” fallout in this country. Several homeowners insurance companies in California have paid claims for “medical marijuana” plant theft. A mother in California has given her 7-year-old son “marijuana muffins” for a mental problem. One heavy equipment operator is suing to be able to use his “medicine” on the job. A “medical pot smoker” is suing Delta for not being able to smoke at the airport nor take his pot on the plane.
Should a state legalize “medical” marijuana, they would be bypassing the FDA process for approving medicine. If a state does not have a process for approving and certifying the safety of the medicine, the state might be held liable for harms caused to citizens by non-medically approved, but legally approved “medical” toxic, tar-laden cigarettes.
Is there an age limit set on “medical smoking?” Will school students be able to smoke their medicine on school grounds? In the school nurses office? According to a California Teachers’ Union attorney, they would take their “medicine” off school campus and smoke it there – coming back to school under the influence. How will children be protected from secondhand smoke? Will “patients” be able to drive vehicles after having smoked? Could the belief that what is “medical and legal” is “healthy and good”, soften children’s attitude toward recreational marijuana? The known and potential hazards are too great. Citizens want safe and effective medicines, not toxic, snake oil remedies.
Steven Steiner, Executive Director, Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers (DAMMADD) – My research indicates that in the state of Connecticut, $ 113,000 in lobbying costs were spent to legalize pot in this state. If it weren’t for these billionaires, there would be no movement. This bill is a result of a purely legalization movement. This isn’t about compassionate care, as some have charged.
Dr. Samuel M. Silverman, Medical Director of Substance Abuse Services, Rushford Behavioral Health – I wish to clarify that I don’t endorse medical marijuana.