After discussing four amendments and entertaining an hour-long debate that was frequently criticized as being outside the committee’s purview, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee passed a measure Tuesday that would allow the medicinal use of marijuana.
The measure passed by a 32-14 vote despite the concerns of Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who raised all of the failed amendments. Boucher has been a long-time opponent of any measures concerning marijuana, which she says is a dangerous drug.
It was Boucher’s voice that drove the most of the debate, during which she was told several times by Finance Committee Co-Chairwoman Eileen Daily to keep the debate within the fiscal aspects of the measure.
The reminders started about 10 minutes in, as Boucher was telling the committee how she would prefer the measure be altered to only apply to terminally ill patients.
“Sen. Boucher?” Daily interrupted. “I would very respectfully remind you that we have to stick to the reason that it’s here, that which is within our purview.”
Throughout, Boucher seemed unsure of her ability to do that. “Thank you. I will try,” she told Daily. “I will certainly give it all the effort I can.”
About three minutes later she asked Daily if she could ask a question regarding what fines a person might face if they lied to a law enforcement officer about legally using marijuana. Daily said no. The bill has already passed the Judiciary Committee, which does have cognizance over matters like that, she said.
She also gently reminded the senator to “keep the clock in mind.” At that time, the House was scheduled to go into session within the hour. The clock was less concerning to Boucher.
“I understand that but given the importance of this particular issue and the kind of changes we’re contemplating, I believe it deserves a lot of discussion,” she said.
The relevance of Boucher’s comments were questioned again when she started raising amendments to the measure. The first amendment would have suspended the bill’s effect for patients or caregivers if they were arrested by federal authorities for possession of marijuana.
Boucher asked Daily whether or not she would be allowed to raise the amendment. Daily opposed the amendment, again saying it was not relevant to the committee, but told Boucher that no one would stop her from calling amendments. She seemed surprised by that.
“Today, at this meeting?” she asked.
After learning she would be allowed to offer amendments, she raised a different, strike-all amendment that would have required the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to adopt regulations regarding the palliative use of marijuana. Daily said that amendment also contained too many aspects not related to the bill’s fiscal note.
After the committee voted down the amendment and another similar change, Boucher began to tell a story about a debate she had in her district regarding the use of medical marijuana. Daily again interrupted.
“Sen. Boucher, that is fascinating,” she said, drawing laughs from spectators. “However it is not relevant to our purview.”
Boucher’s concluding statements, which she acknowledged beforehand would likely stray from the bills fiscal aspects, were broad and difficult to follow.
She said the passage of similar bill in Montana has caused marijuana usage to sky-rocket. She brought up a high school principal who said Montana children are now prostituting themselves to gain access to drugs. She talked about how other legislators have said it is sad to see a young man who overdosed on drugs being photographed on the internet.
She then referred to a 2009 accident on the Taconic Parkway that resulted in eight deaths because a driver had consumed marijuana and alcohol.
She even worked in the 2007 Cheshire killings. She read much of the statement of convicted murderer Steven Hayes after he was sentenced to death. She eventually reached a point in the statement where Hayes acknowledged that he was a drug addict and said that had altered his judgment. Evidence before and after the trial showed Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky were not on drugs or high when they carried out those crimes.
It was too much for Rep. Emil “Buddy” Altobello, D-Meriden, who interrupted Boucher to call a point of order, claiming the comments weren’t relevant. Daily agreed and Boucher stopped the reading.
“I am hoping that at some point we get to the stage that we can recognize the cost implications of this go far beyond just the cognizance of this committee,” she said. “So many lives lost and so many lives broken that it makes my heart weep with anguish.”
The bill now goes back to the Senate.