Rell Vetoes Marijuana Bill
By MARK PAZNIOKAS
Courant Staff Writer
June 20 2007
Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have legalized the medical use of marijuana, saying that the bill was a well-intended, but flawed attempt to alleviate suffering.
"I am not unfamiliar with the incredible pain and heartbreak associated with battling cancer," said Rell, who was treated for breast cancer 2½ years ago. "I have struggled with the decision about signing or vetoing this bill."
The legislation 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.
But in a three-page veto message, Rell said her sympathies for those with unmanageable pain did not overcome her concern that citizens still would have to break the law to obtain marijuana or marijuana seeds.
"There are no pharmacies, storefronts or mail order catalogs where patients or caregivers can legally purchase marijuana plants or seeds," Rell said. "I am troubled by the fact that in essence, this bill forces law-abiding citizens to seek out drug dealers to make their marijuana purchases."
Medical marijuana is supported by 83 percent of residents, according to a poll by the University of Connecticut Center for Survey Research and Analysis.
The bill passed easily, 89-58 in the House and 23-13 in the Senate. But supporters are short of the votes necessary for a veto override: 24 in the Senate and 101 in the House.
Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, a proponent, said the veto is the result of Rell's failure to engage the legislature about her objections prior to passage.
"We've been trying to pass this for three years in a complicated legal and medical environment with little or no involvement from the governor or her staff," McDonald said.
McDonald said the bill decriminalized marijuana under narrow circumstances for patients unable to find relief from standard pharmacology.
Connecticut would have been the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana, though the federal government has not ruled out prosecution of anyone who provides marijuana under the terms of those state laws.
Rep. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who waged a one-person filibuster against the bill in the House, was overcome at the news of Rell's veto.
"This is an emotional day for me, very emotional," Boucher said.
Boucher said the legislation was unnecessary, medically risky and sent the public a mixed message about the use of marijuana.
"Medical science has caught up with the issue," Boucher said, referring to a pill with the active ingredients of marijuana, as well as an aerosol form awaiting FDA approval. "That can be dosed properly."
She said she objected to the concept of delivering medicine through smoking.
"We can't be promoting smoke as a delivery system for any kind of medicine," Boucher said.
During the House debate, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, said she bought marijuana for her husband when he was dying of bone cancer.
Bacchiochi, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, said then: "This bill is about our choice, our right and our responsibility to say we no longer choose to arrest sick people."
Contact Mark Pazniokas at [email protected].