Connecticut Lawmaker Proposes Legislation Expanding State’s Medical Marijuana Law to Include People With HIV
The Connecticut General Assembly's Judiciary Committee on Monday held a public hearing to consider legislation that would expand the state's medicinal marijuana law to include patients with diseases other than cancer and glaucoma, such as HIV, the Connecticut Post reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. James Abrams (D), would rewrite a 1983 law -- which has never been used -- that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for cancer and glaucoma patients to include patients with "other diseases" and to create a "certificate program" to assure that medicinal marijuana users are not arrested for marijuana possession (Dixon, Connecticut Post, 3/19). Abrams said that he agreed to sponsor the legislation after talking with Ned Pocengal, a New Haven man with HIV and hepatitis B who was unable to legally obtain marijuana, which he says curbs his nausea and increases his appetite. Despite the law's existence, Connecticut doctors, "bowing to federal law that prohibits the sale of marijuana for medical uses," do not currently prescribe it (AP/Newsday, 3/18). "We've had 19 years in which doctors were afraid to prescribe it because they were worried the DEA would kick down their doors," Abrams said (Connecticut Post, 3/19). Abrams' legislation would also allow patients to grow a "small ... quantity" of marijuana indoors for the treatment of their condition.
Fears of Widespread Legalization
However, the bill is opposed by many who fear that permitting marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes would open the door to further abuses of the drug. Expanding legalization would be a "mistake" because the law "would invite 'a lot of bogus doctors and agencies' who would prescribe marijuana under the guise of medical treatment," lawyer Mickey Sherman said (AP/Newsday, 3/18). Other opponents of the bill say it would be "a big step toward legalization of marijuana" for non-medicinal use. However, Pocengal disagreed, saying that there is "no evidence that allowing people certain medicine is going to lead to widespread abuse." Abrams added that the legislation has "nothing to do with an eventual attempt to legalize marijuana" more generally (Connecticut Post, 3/19). Although federal officials maintain that smoking marijuana has no medical benefit, the DEA last year approved a University of California-San Diego Medical Center study to determine marijuana's effects on patients with multiple sclerosis or AIDS-related neuropathy. Eight other states currently have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes (AP/Newsday, 3/18).