Allow Ill To Use Marijuana

May 31, 2007

EDITORIAL, Hartford Courant (CT)

Rhode Island's yearlong experiment with legalizing medical marijuana has been a success. Connecticut should join its neighbor and 13 other states in letting seriously ill people have marijuana to ease their pain.

So many of the 257 individuals in the Rhode Island medical-marijuana program have praised it that legislators in the Ocean State have voted overwhelmingly to make the law permanent.

But Connecticut critics would impose such restrictions on a similar bill that recently passed the House of Representatives that they would put relief out of the reach of many who suffer greatly.

For example, Gov. M. Jodi Rell's insistence on limiting the law only to the terminally ill could shut out those with debilitating chronic diseases.

Under the bill, patients with certain medical conditions such as AIDS and with doctors' prescriptions could register with the state to grow up to four 4-foot plants. (Rhode Island's more liberal law allows 12 plants.) Some Connecticut legislators fear that doctors won't cooperate for fear of breaking federal drug laws, although they'd be immune from state prosecution. Such fears haven't stopped many Rhode Island doctors from participating in the program. And the vast majority of drug arrests are made by local and state police, not federal agents.

Registration isn't a ticket to abuse, of course. A Rhode Island man who was registered to have medical marijuana was arrested for using the drug on MySpace to lure teenage girls.

Abuse is rare, however, and outweighed by the compassionate relief that the medical-marijuana program could bring to hundreds of suffering patients.


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