Malloy signs medical marijuana bill
On May 17, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed Public Act No. 16-23 — An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana — into law, allowing children with uncontrolled seizures and other severe neurological conditions to have access to medical marijuana, beginning Oct. 1.
The act, formerly known as House Bill 5450, passed in the Connecticut House of Representatives by a 129-13 vote and the Senate by a 23-11 vote last month.
State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) both voted in favor of the bill during the House’s session, while Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) voted against it during the Senate’s session.
For Wiltonian Dana Haddox-Wright, the bill’s progress has been part of a multi-year struggle to gain some relief for her 6-year-old daughter, Ella, who suffers from a rare genetic epileptic brain dysfunction called Dravet syndrome that causes her to have uncontrolled seizures.
Haddox-Wright said her daughter, whose current approved pharmaceuticals “are not sufficient at treating” her disease, “deserves access to another option” like medical cannabis.
The day after the Senate passed the bill, Haddox-Wright told The Bulletin she and other parents who have been advocating for the legalization of medical cannabis to treat children with life-threatening conditions were “incredibly relieved.”
“Our legislators gave medical professionals and parents the freedom to make the important choices as it pertains to the health and well-being of their sick children,” said Haddox-Wright.
“Our children are our greatest assets and we merely want them to thrive,” she said. “We are happy that our voices were heard.”
Opposition and support
During the April 29 Senate session, Boucher said she would not vote in favor of the bill because it would be “ill-advised [and] extremely dangerous for our youngest and most vulnerable children.”
“I have very great concerns and I’m opposing this bill, the focus of which is to extend the legal use of medical marijuana to children under the age of 18 and as young as one or two or three or four years old,” she said.
“It’s amazing to me that we could actually give a product that could actually intoxicate a young child at that age [and] this particular bill would expose children, whose bodies are still developing, to a substance which has been linked to numerous health complications even in adults.”
While the state of Connecticut has “a duty to do everything possible to increase access to proven and effective medical treatments for children,” said Boucher, “scientific evidence in favor of medical marijuana is too scant and the possible consequences too great to fall under this category.”
“Dispensing pot to young children is too risky and we should undertake no legislative effort that would expose our children to unnecessary risk,” said Boucher.
Even though “there’s always going to be opposition to it,” Haddox-Wright said, she believes support for medical marijuana is increasing “the more people learn about it.”
During the House's April 20 session, Lavielle said she had given the bill "very long and hard thought" because she "know[s] people for whom this subject has a very deep resonance.”
Lavielle said while she is “very deeply concerned” about drug-related problems affecting communities and has “voted against the marijuana and decriminalization bill and … the medical marijuana bill,” she would not vote against this one.
“It’s not because I’ve suddenly decided that marijuana’s OK — I haven’t — but I also think I don’t know enough about it to make a really considered judgment about its effects and characteristics,” said Lavielle.
“I wasn’t trained as a research scientist and I certainly am not qualified as a medical doctor,” she said. “Because of that, I don’t feel qualified to make a pronouncement to either the risks or the benefits of marijuana.”
Lavielle said she knows parents of children with severe neurological conditions “consider marijuana as something that might help their children” and they are aware there are risks.
“When nothing else works, they are often willing to try something that might. They will do anything if it has a chance, and they’re serious enough to assume the responsibility that that decision entails,” said Lavielle. “I am not these parents, these are not my children, and they are not my patients.”
To claim to know what’s best for these children, Lavielle said, would be “supreme and egregious arrogance.”
According to a Wilton Bulletin poll, taken by 50 people as of May 8, 94% of respondents said they support the use of medical cannabis to treat children with uncontrolled seizures. Four percent said they are against it, and 2% said they are unsure.
To read An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana, visit http://1.usa.gov/1SMkpoH.