Demonstrators Show Support For Medicinal Marijuana

June 05, 2004

Amy Sullivan , The Day - New London, CT

Norwich –– Nearly a dozen demonstrators picketed Friday morning outside Norwich Superior Court in support of legislation that would prevent the federal government from interfering with state laws allowing medicinal marijuana use.

Several states have passed laws that allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana as a pain-reliever, protest organizer Micah Daigle said, but in many cases, the U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted and imprisoned patients and their caregivers because the federal government does not recognize such use of the drug.

“The main problem is the federal government isn't respecting the states' decisions,” Daigle said.

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment failed by 66 votes in the House of Representatives in July of 2003, Daigle said, even though a 2002 CNN poll found that 80 percent of Americans “think adults should be able to use marijuana legally for medical purposes.”

U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, voted against the amendment.

Daigle said Simmons spoke with the protesters Friday, and that “he seemed pretty supportive of at least looking into the issue.”

Daigle said demonstrations were taking place in about 120 locations around the nation Friday, which had been designated a “national day of action.” It was the one-year anniversary of a court decision favorable to a California man who faced federal charges that he grew marijuana to use for prescriptions. Marijuana can be legally prescribed in California, Daigle said, and although the man was convicted, he was only sentenced to one day in prison.

Among the demonstrators in Norwich was Mark Braunstein, a Waterford resident and medicinal marijuana user who has been fighting for legalization of the drug for eight years.

“I have been a paraplegic for 14 years and a medicinal marijuana user for 131/2 years,” Braunstein said. “I don't use the typically prescribed drugs like narcotics, codeine or morphine, which are highly addictive. With marijuana, the only side effects are increased risk of respiratory illness, because it is smoking, and paranoia –– paranoia of being arrested, of court costs, of prison sentences.”

Braunstein said that originally he needed to smoke marijuana daily to ease his spasms and pain, but that over the years he has been able to reduce his use to once every two or three days.



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