Time for Changes in State Marijuana Laws
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Time for Changes in State Marijuana Laws
Posted by CN Staff on March 16, 2011 at 06:46:01 PT
Source: The Day
Hartford, C.T. -- It makes no sense for the state to continue expending judicial and criminal resources prosecuting as criminals people found with small amounts of marijuana, nor should the state continue denying the plant to people seeking to relieve physical suffering.The Connecticut legislature should act on pending bills and both decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and allow its use legally by people with debilitating conditions.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found strong public support for both measures. In Connecticut, 79 percent of respondents said they supported the use of medical marijuana, while 17 percent were opposed. Poll responders support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana by a wide margin as well, 65-32.While poll numbers are not reason enough to approve legislation, lawmakers need to consider them. Their job is to represent the interests of the people.Each year Connecticut legislators, along with state lawmakers across the country, hear testimony from individuals who say marijuana provided them the best and least intrusive relief from the discomfort associated with their medical conditions. These conditions include relief from the nauseating effects of cancer treatment, Parkinson's disease, AIDS, glaucoma, appetite loss and multiple sclerosis.True, the American Medical Association and Connecticut State Medical Society do not embrace the concept. And for most people traditional pharmaceuticals will be the best choice. But for those who see marijuana as the better herbal alternative, they should be able to make that choice without fearing arrest.The two pending medical marijuana bills would allow individuals to grow a small amount for personal use. One bill also calls for the state to license producers of marijuana for medical purposes. The other, developed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office, has no such provision, meaning a patient not growing a plant would have to obtain pot illegally. The licensing of producers is the preferable option.Both bills would require a doctor to certify that patients legally qualify because they suffer from a condition approved legislatively for marijuana use. Lawmakers need to make allowable uses extensive enough to provide reasonable access, but not so broad that it becomes doctor-aided de facto legalization, as seen in California.Connecticut would join 15 other states allowing medical use. If a reasonable bill reaches his desk, Gov. Malloy says he will sign it. He should. As for marijuana and crime, a bill now before the legislature would make it an infraction to be found in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana with offenders facing a $100 fine, akin to a traffic ticket. Currently, someone with that amount of pot is a criminal and can face a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.In reality, most people found with small amounts of marijuana are not going to prison in Connecticut. They pay fines and get suspended sentences or outright dismissals. But police must process them and the courts must deal with the paperwork, the appearances and the plea bargaining between defense attorneys and prosecutors, all of which costs money and time. Certainly there are higher priorities. Thirteen states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Outright legalization is arguably the more honest outcome. That would remove any criminal element and produce tax revenues. But the fact that possession remains a federal crime, with little political will in Washington to change that,, would prove problematic. Decriminalization is the appropriate, moderate step.Source: Day, The (CT)Published: March 16, 2011Copyright: 2011 The Day Publishing Co.Contact: editor theday.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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