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Somers Rep. Tries Addressing Medical Cannabis

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Before the House of Representatives gave final passage to a bill that will decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, appealed to the chamber to add language concerning medicinal use of the substance.

The amendment, which was rejected 94-52, would have set up a task force to study the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Bacchiochi's proposed change was a last-ditch effort to address the medicinal cannabis issue before the legislative session ends on Wednesday.

She supported a bill that would have allowed for the use of substance by people suffering from certain debilitating conditions. But on Tuesday, neither chamber seemed poised to act on the measure and with the legislative deadline less than 48 hours away the bill was assumed dead.

On the floor of the House, Bacchiochi seemed frustrated with that continued inaction.

"For many, many years I've heard all of the reasons why this chamber cannot pass a medical marijuana bill. I've heard that it can't pass in the House because the Senate doesn't have time. I've heard that it can't pass in the Senate because the House won't take it up. I've heard we can't pass it in either chamber because the governor won't sign it. I've heard the governor will sign it but we don't have time to take it up," she said.

Bacchiochi said there's enough interest in the subject to warrant a scientific study so that maybe next session the legislature can approach the topic with an informed opinion.

Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Gerald Fox III, D-Stamford, said he supported the medicinal marijuana bill in committee. He said also that he would like to see the task force she proposed. But he pointed out that if the House altered the decriminalization bill in any way, it would need to return to the Senate for approval. Given the fast-approaching deadline that likely would have killed the bill.

"If there is a way to put this amendment on another bill, I would certainly, as chair of Judiciary, support that and try to find a mechanism by which we could do that," he said. But he urged lawmakers to reject her amendment.

Bacchiochi said she had heard similar excuses before but said it was important to protect very ill people.

Under the decriminalization bill, someone with debilitating cancer who smoked cannabis for relief would have no protection from the fines and provisions included in the law. If caught with marijuana three times, that person would be ordered to attend drug education programs at his or her own expense.

She asked fellow lawmakers to imagine a patient who must go through incapacitating chemotherapy in the morning and then pay for and attend drug classes at night.

"I'm, respectfully to you, sick and tired of hearing all the reasons we can't do this bill. It's always the end of the session, there's never time, it's always too late. We have time to do the underlying bill, I do not understand why don't have time to tack this amendment on here and take it seriously that people need protection," she said.

Bacchiochi has long supported the concept. She remarked that a news outlet had recently referred to her as the "human face" of medicinal marijuana. It's a title she said she wasn't quite comfortable with but a personal experience from her past made the issue important to her.

In March she testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of the medicinal marijuana bill. There she told the story of her late ex-husband, who died of bone cancer.

Over the course of his illness, her ex-husband lost over 80 pounds due to chemotherapy and radiation, she said. After he had tried all the available medications to no avail, Bacchiochi said a doctor pulled her aside and recommended he try marijuana.

"That was the beginning of a very long journey that has brought me here before you today," she told the committee.

Since that time, close to a thousand people throughout the state have contacted her and encouraged her to do everything she could to help legalize medical marijuana, she said.

Bacchiochi said much has changed since 2007, when former Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed an almost identical bill passed by the legislature to allow the practice. The American Medical Association has changed its position that there was no medical use for the substance and said it required more research, she said.

This year Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he supported the measure but it's unlikely to reach his desk.

Ultimately the decriminalization bill passed 90-57, with no semblance of party line voting. Sixteen Democrats voted against the measure and 11 Republicans supported it. Bacchiochi was not among them.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: tolland.patch.com
Author: Hugh McQuaid
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Patch
Website: Somers Rep. Tries Addressing Medical Cannabis
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