‘Capitol Connection’ – Treating Debilitating Diseases

June 6, 2012

State Senator Kevin Witkos, left, speaks with students, parents and teachers at an essay contest ceremony in Simsbury on Thursday, May 24th.

During this year’s legislative session, the General Assembly approved legislation that would allow Connecticut residents suffering from debilitating diseases to use marijuana to ease their painful symptoms. After many hours of passionate discussion and debate, the bill was passed by both the House and the Senate.

Surely, this issue is a controversial one. Many believe that any expansion of the legal use of this drug may unintentionally encourage greater use by young people or others. Marijuana has often been labeled a gateway drug to more potent and dangerous drugs that can severely harm someone’s life. However, advocates for patients believe that the drug can have a positive affect on those who suffer from some of the worst diseases, including AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.

In the past, legislation seeking to accomplish a similar goal was drastically different. For example, both chambers passed a bill that was vetoed by former Governor Jodi Rell in 2007. It would have allowed primary caregivers to purchase the drug from dealers on the street or to grow their own plants. This means patients would have to commit an illegal act to buy and bring home seeds to cultivate their own plants. Also, if purchased on the street, the drug could be laced with other more potent ingredients that could worsen a patient’s overall condition.

After much work to improve the legislation, the current law will regulate the drug’s use and limit disagreement with the federal government. First, a doctor must certify that the patient suffers from one of the debilitating diseases before they may be given the drug. To take part in the program, both patients and their caregivers will have to register with the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). Ultimately, it will only be dispensed by licensed pharmacists.

I am opposed to the recreational use of marijuana because I know how it can negatively affect our children’s lives. After the state decided to decriminalize the substance, making the penalty comparable to a speeding ticket, I believe that it is only fair to offer patients who are afflicted with some of the most debilitating diseases the ability to have access to medication that can improve their quality of life.

Many times, standard courses of treatment and medication will either wear out or simply not work. In fact, I personally spoke with a cancer patient who said that chemotherapy left them sick and unable to eat for days. If marijuana could help improve their condition, they were willing to see if it could help.

In the end, I decided to support the legislation because we should allow patients to have access to drugs that can help alleviate their pain while ensuring the strict control of these substances. After being signed into law on May 11th, Connecticut became the 17th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. However you feel about this issue, I hope you can agree with me that patients should get the help that they need.