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UPDATE: Rell Still Mum On Bill To OK Marijuana For Medicinal Uses

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Hartford — When Gov. M. Jodi Rell doesn't want to take a public position on a proposal that awaits her approval, she and her staff have a stock response: The governor has yet to receive or read the bill, her staff will say. Rell, the saying goes, is “waiting to see the final language.”

But even given their established devotion to the phrase, Rell has seemed to deploy it with unusual frequency about one bill in particular this spring — the proposal, already passed by the legislature, to allow certain chronically and terminally ill people to grow and smoke marijuana to ease painful symptoms of disease and side effects of their treatment.

While she has hinted about her mixed feelings on the bill — saying she'd prefer it apply only to those with terminal illnesses, expressing agreement with the aim of helping the sick — Rell has steadfastly refused to say directly if she will let Connecticut join the dozen states that have partially decriminalized or legalized cannabis for the sick.

On Wednesday, Rell declined once again to take a position, nearly two weeks after the Senate gave final approval to the bill. It would permit patients with certain chronic and fatal conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal injuries and HIV/AIDS, to cultivate up to four marijuana plants in their homes and to smoke pot to alleviate their symptoms under limited circumstances, without fear of prosecution.

Was the governor for this idea or against it, several reporters asked, after the announcement of an economic development project in New Britain.

“I don't have the bill yet,” Rell said.

(The bill in question, H.B. 6715, still must be formally transmitted to the governor's office, according to legislative traditions, but its final form has been drafted and made public — along with explanations of its provisions and its cost — on the legislature's Web site, and to lawmakers themselves.)

When pressed, since details of the proposal have been public at least since late May, when the House of Representatives approved the measure after a lengthy debate, the governor conceded that she was familiar with its provisions.

“Yeah,” Rell said, smiling, “but I don't have the bill yet, so why should I tell you until I get the bill?”

That rule was not consistently applied, however. Moments later, Rell said that she would sign a health-care proposal passed in the final hours of the session, assuming she could first reach a budget agreement with the Democrats.

This isn't the first time there has been some dissonance in the governor's position on the marijuana bill. In a press conference on the last day of the legislative session last week, Rell both declined to answer on the grounds that she hadn't seen the final legislation and confirmed that she was “reading” the law and seeking consultation from doctors on both sides of the issue.

“I've been reading the bill,” Rell said, before turning in the direction of her chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody. “I'm actually, do you know what? Do I have the bill in my possession?”

She then declined to answer further, saying she was “close” to making up her mind.

All of this seems ominous to supporters of the bill, like Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, who has lobbied colleagues for five years to decriminalize marijuana for the chronically ill. Bacchiochi's effort was inspired by her own experience buying marijuana to ease the pain her husband felt as he was dying of cancer.

“Every day that passes gives me more concern that she's less and less likely to sign the legislation,” Bacchiochi said Wednesday in a phone interview.

She has lobbied Rell personally, she said, imploring the governor to sign the bill into law, trying to overcome concerns that the law would put Connecticut in conflict with the federal government, which classifies marijuana as a controlled substance.

“They're very sympathetic to what the bill is trying to achieve, but they're concerned about the technicalities that it is still illegal under federal use,” Bacchiochi said. “But I think my argument is valid. We're not talking about legalizing it, we're simply talking about, in the state of Connecticut, not prosecuting people who use marijuana in this type of framework.”

The bill was strenuously opposed by some members of Bacchiochi's own party, notably Rep. Toni Boucher of Wilton and Sen. Judith Freedman of Westport, who called more than a dozen amendments between them in an unsuccessful effort to derail the bill.

But for now, it is supporters of the legislation who can only wait and worry, Bacchiochi said, since the unprecedented passage of the proposal by the House and Senate, and the years of lobbying that preceded it, would come to naught if the bill is struck down.

“Her vetoing the bill is beyond a serious setback,” Bacchiochi said. “I don't think there would be any reason (in trying again) as long as she's governor.

“I've kind of been on pins and needles waiting to see what will happen,” she added.

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: The Day
Author: Ted Mann
Contact: t.mann@theday.com
Copyright: 2007 The Day Publishing Co
Website: TheDay.com - Rell Still Mum On Bill To OK Marijuana For Medicinal Uses
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