House votes to legalize medical marijuana

May 23, 2007

Mark Davis, WTNH News Channel 8 (CT)

A bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana for certain patients has been approved by the state House of Representatives.

The bill passed 89-to-58 tonight after six hours of sometimes emotional debate. Many lawmakers spoke of their personal experience with debilitating disease.

A state representative who feared she would be arrested for buying marijuana on the street for her sick husband, helped to lead the debate on medical marijuana today.

Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, (R) of Somers has been working for this day for five years.  Earlier this year she was instrumental in bringing syndicated talk show host Montel Williams to the capitol to urge passage of the medical marijuana bill.  She did it because she has first hand experience.

"I purchased marijuana for someone who was very sick, very ill, lost eighty pounds, was wasting away, had no quality of life," said Bacchiochi.  "After smoking marijuana he became able to eat, he had a better quality of life."

That was Montel Williams' message and others who came to the capitol to urge passage.  Bacchiochi's experience was with her own husband and getting the marijuana for him.

"There is only one word to describe how I felt; that is fear," said Bacchiochi.  "Fear of arrest, fear of prosecution, fear of going to jail, fear of losing one's property, fear of losing one's reputation."

But arguments against the bill are nearly as compelling, not the least of which, it could increase addiction.

"Most importantly, we're going to damage the message we're giving to our kids, many of which are in treatment centers that are telling my treatment centers that, 'this is safe, why are they here? it's medicine,'" said Rep. Toni Boucher, (R) of Wilton.

Deputy House Speaker Marie Kirkley-Bey, (D), had always opposed this bill for the same reasons but she has changed her mind, because two young cousins were diagnosed with a painful form of cancer and also needed some relief because prescribed medicines didn't work.

"All I could think of was; if they wanted to do that because the doctor thought it was best based on my values of something else, I had denied them that right," said Kirkley-Bey.

"If this bill were limited to prescribing medical marijuana simply for those who are terminally ill, it may have a better chance of passage," said Gov. Jodi Rell.

An amendment to do just that was overwhelmingly defeated during today's debate, so it appears unlikely that Rell will sign this bill if it passes in the senate.

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