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Medical Marijuana For Minors In Connecticut

Medical Marijuana For Minors In Connecticut

By Zachary Babin - March 21, 2016

Associated Press

Medical Marijuana For Minors In Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers moved closer Monday toward allowing qualified patients under 18 to use medical marijuana, with many saying they were inspired by stories from young people seeking relief from debilitating illnesses.

The General Assembly’s Public Health Committee overwhelmingly forwarded the legislation to the House of Representatives for further action.

The bill’s approval came days after a funeral was held in Montville for 13-year-old Cyndiemae Meehan, whose family moved her from Connecticut to Maine to receive medical marijuana to treat a rare form of epilepsy. The girl recently appeared at the Legislative Office Building with her mother, who testified before the same committee to urge support of the bill, saying she felt like her family had become “medical refugees.”

Montville Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, who pushed for similar legislation last year on behalf of Cyndiemae, suggested the bill be unofficially named “Cyndiemae’s Law” in honor of the girl, whose March 13 death was classified as “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy,” according to her mother.

Monday’s bill received bipartisan support. Both Democrats and Republicans said they were moved emotionally by the public hearing testimony provided by minors and their families. They said this legislation gives the doctors treating those patients another option to abate their symptoms. Under the bill, a dispensary could not provide a marijuana product that can be inhaled to someone under 18 years old.

The bill also requires consent from a parent or guardian before a qualified young patient can be prescribed the drug, which has been credited for alleviating symptoms ranging from seizures to chronic pain. Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford, the committee’s co-chairman, acknowledged the “optics” of the legislature allowing young people to use marijuana might not sit well with some people. But he said there are people suffering in the state with conditions where medical marijuana has been proven to be helpful.

“We are allowing people in serious pain and families in agony to have an option,” Ritter said.

Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, a medical doctor, supported the bill. He said the legislation allows professionals to decide whether medical marijuana is right for a particular patient.

“We’re not mandating anything. We’re not requiring anything at all. We’re giving them an option,” he said, adding how it was an emotional experience to hear about the suffering some young people are experiencing and how families are leaving Connecticut to find medical attention.

Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said he was also touched by the emotional testimony, but he voted against the bill after hearing concerns from people in his district who work with youth. He said they’re worried approval of medical marijuana for children in Connecticut will further encourage young people to experiment with the illegal drug.

Connecticut first legalized medical marijuana in 2012 for qualified adults. There are six dispensaries in the state serving more than 9,400 registered patients.

Monday’s bill also expands the number of specific debilitating medical conditions that can be treated in the state using medical marijuana. If ultimately approved, the list would now include uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder, cystic fibrosis, a certain form of irreversible spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and terminal illnesses requiring end-of-life care.

Associated Press