Wilton Reps Vote Against Medical Marijuana Bill

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted 96 to 51 in favor of a bill that allows the growing and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Wilton's two state representatives — Gail Lavielle (R-143) and John Hetherington (R-125) were in the minority voting against the measure. Both said they were not against the use of marijuana to relieve pain in those with chronic and debilitating illnesses, rather their opposition was rooted in the bill itself.

"I voted against the medical marijuana bill because it defies federal law as confirmed by the written response of the US Attorney for the District of Connecticut," Mr. Hetherington said in a statement emailed to The Bulletin.

"Producers and dispensers may face prosecution. All of us in the legislature took an oath to support the US Constitution which provides for the supremacy of federal law. I will keep that oath. Federal law has prevailed to give us the original Civil Rights Act and other measures to protect the liberty of individuals from encroachment by state and local bias and abuse.

"I believe that those who suffer and can be relieved by marijuana should have access to it," he continued. "We could do that easily without establishing producers and dispensaries that violate federal law. The problem is not in the drug — the problem is in the unlawful way we have tried to make it available."

According to the Associated Press, legislators who opposed the bill distributed copies of a letter from U.S. Attorney David Fein of Connecticut, saying if the state legalizes medical marijuana, the Department of Justice won't go after the seriously ill patients who use it but it will enforce federal drug laws against those who manufacture and distribute it.

"House Bill 5389 will create a licensing scheme that appears to permit large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution, which would authorize conduct contrary to federal law and undermine the federal government's efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances," Mr. Fein wrote.

Ms. Lavielle said, "I am not at all opposed to allowing people who have debilitating medical conditions access to something that can relieve their pain. I voted against the medical marijuana bill, however, because I felt that it raised more questions than it answered.

"It is an attempt to allow the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana under the same conditions as prescription drugs, but because marijuana is not legal under federal law and remains heavily restricted under state law, it is difficult for this bill to accomplish that. The language of the bill, in fact, mentions numerous scenarios under which compliance with the new laws it attempts to establish is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. The bill makes the legal status of marijuana in Connecticut even more murky than it already was and sends a very mixed message," she said.

The bill limits medical marijuana prescriptions to a one-year supply and requires all drug manufacturing and distribution to be done in Connecticut. The marijuana would be banned in public places, moving vehicles, school grounds and in the presence of a minor, among other situations.

According to a report by United Press International, patients eligible to use marijuana must be over 18 and diagnosed with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, malnutrition, wasting syndrome, Crohn's disease or post traumatic stress disorder.

The bill now goes before the Senate. Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) has spoken out strongly against the bill. Gov. Malloy is supportive of the idea.

Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia now allow marijuana for medical use.

- Article originally from Winton Bulletin.

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