On a day dedicated to the celebration of marijuana, a bill permitting the medical use of marijuana cleared a key legislative committee in Connecticut.
The measure survived several attempts to amend it before winning approval of the finance committee Friday afternoon on a vote of 36 to 15. It now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill would allow patients to use marijuana prescribed by a doctor to ease the symptoms of a debilitating illness. Supporters say pot use would be tightly regulated. At a public hearing on the proposal earlier this year, patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis and other chronic diseases testified that using marijuana helps relieve their often unrelenting pain.
But Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, one of the loudest critics of the bill, said the dangers of allowing medical marijuana far outweigh the benefits.
She offered several amendments to soften the bill, including one that would have limited the use of medical marijuana to those with terminal illnesses.
“This…is exactly the wrong message to our children,” Boucher said. “While trying to help a small few…the costs to our families and children are so severe.”
Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, a Republican from Glastonbury who is also a medical doctor, said he’s knows all about the potential benefits of marijuana for ill patients.
“Being a physician and taking care of [the] terminally ill, I am well aware of that there are indications for medical marijuana,” he said
But the cost to the state would be prohibitive, Srinivasan said. He questioned figures provided by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. OFA found that any costs associated with the bill, such as the hiring of additional drug control agents, would be offset by revenue gains through registration fees.
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 of marijuana.
This year, legislators said, they changed the bill to quell lingering questions about how patients would obtain the drug.