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Connecticut Pediatricians, Politicians, and Families Alike Are Fighting For Expanded MMJ Laws For Minors In Need

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Though Connecticut has proved to be somewhat progressive on the issue of marijuana, it still has a lot of room for improvement. The New England blue state voted medical into law back in 2012 and only narrowly missed out on passing recreational this year. While the insurance capital of the country finds itself on the list of states that have legalized the medical use of cannabis, it’s the only one that doesn’t spell out provisions for children who may need the drug. As the law currently states, no one under the age of 18 in Connecticut can participate in the state’s medical marijuana program, and that’s a problem.

Though lawmakers and advocates unsuccessfully pushed for new legislation on the matter in 2015, they now have crucial backing in place that is giving new hope for change. One of the most important players to switch their stance on the issue was the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who wanted a Pediatrician on the decision-making Board before offering their support for the new bill. This proposed Board would be tasked with deciding what parameters would qualify a minor to receive a medical marijuana prescription, including what illnesses would or would not meet the requirements. The Executive Director of the state’s chapter of AAP, Jillian Wood, told the Wall Street Journal she and other members had a tough time deciding on the matter, mostly because they had concerns regarding the effect of marijuana on a child’s developing brain. Wood said the group decided to move forward with their support of the initiative because the potential reward far outweighed the risk, especially when considering the alternatives. “In many cases, there is no relief for these families. Who are we to say, ‘No, you can’t try this,’” she asked.

One Pawcatuck, CT family personifying the struggle and fighting for change is the Lloyds. Chris and Linda’s son Henry has a severe case of epilepsy that requires north of 20 pills a day to curb his seizures and other symptoms. The 6-year old desperately needs the relief Linda and Chris think medical marijuana can provide, at least as an alternative to the 5 different medications he currently has to take. Henry currently has to endure a laundry list of negative side effects with his current drug cocktail, and Linda simply doesn’t believe it’s the best course of action. “I can’t buy that there is anything that marijuana can do that can be any worse in his case,” she pleaded.

Henry and Linda Lloyd playing with Legos. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER BEAUCHAMP FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Henry and Linda Lloyd playing with Legos. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER BEAUCHAMP FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The new initiative also has support from both sides of the floor in the Statehouse, including Connecticut’s Governor Daniel Malloy. Malloy’s support is especially interesting, given his mixed record on marijuana legalization. Back in 2011, the Governor signed legislation during his first year in office to decriminalize marijuana possession under a half-ounce. A year later in 2012, he signed a bill that gave adults over the age of 18 access to medical marijuana should they have a preapproved debilitating illness. He has stopped short of supporting full recreational legalization, however, stating, “I think when you legalize marijuana you are encouraging marijuana and that’s not a place I want to go.”

The objective is pushing for children under the age of 18 to have legal access to marijuana to treat terminal illnesses, severe epilepsy, and other debilitating conditions that would be decided by the appointed Board. Other state lawmakers in Connecticut aren’t convinced, though, and want to do more research on the effects of marijuana on a child’s brain before they support such a bill. “I really think they are playing with fire here,” said Senator Toni Boucher (R-CT), a staunch anti-weed advocate.

As for how things will shake out on the floor, longtime MMJ advocate Ed Vargas (D-CT) expects there will be more momentum on the marijuana front next year.

Cover photo courtesy Karen Grigoryan.

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