Greenwich lawmakers are divided over the legalization of medical marijuana, the fate of which now rests with the state Senate after the House signed off on the practice last week with the support of two local GOP incumbents.
State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th District, opposes the measure, saying it is ripe for abuse by people who are not legitimately suffering from debilitating diseases or medical conditions. The other concern of Frantz, who represents all of Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan, is that federal law classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, a potential conflict with Connecticut's exemption.
"If the bill was solely for medical use and there were guarantees in the bill that it wouldn't be used for any other purpose, I would be a `yes' for it," Frantz said. "However, based on the track record that we've witnessed in California, Colorado and a few other states, the whole concept of medical marijuana is being abused."
Sixteen states have laws on the books allowing for marijuana to be dispensed for palliative purposes, as well as the District of Columbia.
To qualify for a medical marijuana prescription in Connecticut, patients would have to be 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.
State Rep. Alfred Camillo, R-151st District, who was one of 17 Republicans in the House to support the legislation, said he could not stand in the way of people suffering from chronic and terminal illnesses.
"I always thought, `Well, who am I to say no you shouldn't have some form of relief?' " Camillo said. "Many of them are in the last days of their lives."
Camillo noted that last year he voted with the minority against a bill that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.
"There I relied on a lot of advice and counsel from a lot of colleagues in law enforcement," Camillo said.
"I've supported it really from the beginning," Floren said. "I do think that it should be treated like any other prescription drug."
Floren said that the latest incarnation of the bill irons out concerns over the number of marijuana growers and distributors.
Under the legislation, there would be three to 10 producers that would pay $25,000 fees to grow marijuana and send it to dispensaries run by licensed pharmacists.
"It does alleviate pain, and, if a doctor prescribes it, so be it," Floren said.
Retiring state Rep. Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, voted "no," however.
Frantz, citing Boulder, Colo., as an example, said he is troubled by the emergence of "pot shops" in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
"Anything flies," Frantz said. "Some of these young people are flying around with a great sense of pride that they have this medical marijuana card that allows them to purchase it and they're proud of it."
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