The Senate gave final passage to a bill Friday that would give children under the age of 18 access to non-smokeable medical marijuana.
The bill passed the Senate 23-11 after more than three hours of debate.
The legislation, which received overwhelming approval in the House, faced stiff opposition from at least one Senator who introduced three amendments.
The bill would give minors with severe epilepsy and terminal illnesses access to marijuana after the approval of two doctors.
Sens. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, is passionately opposed to marijuana and believes that condoning any use of an “illegal” drug sends the wrong message. Boucher has vehemently opposed efforts to establish a medical marijuana program and decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and has led long debates on those issues in past years.
Friday’s effort was no different when it came to the substance of Boucher’s arguments, but it was briefer than in previous years.
Boucher said her efforts to oppose marijuana use have gotten harder over the years because she has been called names that she can’t repeat.
“Some have even threatened my life,” Boucher said.
She said after she testified in opposition to the proposal at the Public Health Committee, a man told her “he wished I would die.”
But Boucher said she didn’t seek out this issue. “This issue came to me,” she said.
Boucher said the increase in marijuana has accompanied a opioid and heroin epidemic.
She said earlier this month her niece was found dead of a drug overdose and it was left to her mother “to identify her body, which was marbled black and white with the drugs that had taken her life.”
She said she’s tried to hide her emotion over the issue in the past, but “it’s like a kick in the gut everytime this subject comes up.”
She said she feels obligated to oppose any measure that would bring her family or her constituents harm and there isn’t enough research to show that this treatment is better than other approved drugs on the market.
But desperate mothers whose children suffered mostly from epilepsy told the Public Health Committee they are willing to try anything that will reduce the number of seizures their children have every day. Many mothers testified they were afraid that every seizure might be fatal.
Linda Lloyd, whose 6-year-old son, Henry, also has seizures, broke into tears when talking about the fear that his next seizure “is the one that won’t stop.” She said she sometimes thinks “is this the seizure that will take my son.”
She told the committee in March that the only effective treatment she hasn’t been able to give her son is medical marijuana.
“I’ve listened to enough parents to know that this is going to relieve the suffering their children are going through,” Sen. Stephen Cassano, D-Manchester, said. “It’s an absolute necessity to have access to this treatment. If it lessens their pain, we should be doing everything in our power to help them.”
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said he heard moving testimony from parents of children who suffered from serious medical conditions that may be treated with medical marijuana.
“There’s a Libertarian instinct in me that’s sympathetic to the expansion of these liberties to the choice of the people who are consuming it,” Markley said. “The other side is the unintended consequences of things that we do for very good reasons.”
Markley said those who work with youth encouraged him not to support the medical marijuana bill because it would encourage the youth to try the drug when they are trying hard to keep young people away from it.
Sen. Eric Colemen, D-Bloomfield, said “Parents shouldn’t have to choose between breaking the law and being branded as criminals in Connecticut, or not doing what they need to do to provide relief for their children.”
The medical marijuana available to children with epilepsy, terminal illness, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorders, or irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, would likely be in the form of an oil that’s dropped on the tongue.
Connecticut legalized medical marijuana for adults in 2012. There are nine dispensaries in the state serving more than 9,400 registered patients.
Connecticut is the only state with a medical marijuana program that doesn’t give access to minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.