June 30th, 2009 – Those of us who have seen the suffering of sick friends or family members relieved by smoking marijuana remain mystified at Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s opposition to a medical marijuana law. But perhaps she will be inspired by Rhode Island’sGeriatrics_patient example.

The Ocean State’s legislature has expanded a 2006 medical marijuana law to allow for state-licensed “compassion centers,” dispensaries where chronically ill residents who are registered with the state health department and have a prescription from a doctor may buy pot to ease their pain. There are 700 registered patients and 582 caregivers who may purchase marijuana on behalf of someone else.

Rhode Island joined California and New Mexico as the only states to permit marijuana sales to chronically ill people. At least eight other states, including New Hampshire and Maine, are considering similar legislation; 13 states offer some legal protection to patients who use marijuana under a doctor’s care.

Connecticut might have been the 14th. A bill introduced last year would have allowed patients with conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or AIDS to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes with a doctor’s prescription. The bill was approved by wide margins in the Connecticut House and Senate. Polls showed that 83 percent of residents supported the legislation.

But Mrs. Rell vetoed the measure. She said it would force people to seek out drug dealers to buy marijuana, apparently unaware that that’s what sick people or their friends were already doing.

Mrs. Rell also said the bill would send the wrong message to young people. But research by the Washington, D.C.-based Medical Marijuana Project has found no increases in marijuana use among the young and some indications of less use in some age groups in states that allow medical marijuana.

Perhaps when pot becomes a palliative for cancer or HIV/AIDS patients, it loses its attraction.

State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, whose then-husband used marijuana to counter the pain of bone cancer in the 1980s, reintroduced the medical marijuana bill earlier this year but did not press it after she was told that the governor had not changed her position.

The governor ought to do so in time for the 2010 session, lest she allow ideology to trump compassion. Source.

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