Yesterday Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have allowed people suffering from diseases such as AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis to grow marijuana and use it to relieve their symptoms. The New York Times reports that Rell agonized over this veto, "struggling with what was described as one of the most difficult decisions in her three-year tenure." But the reasons she cited for rejecting the bill make little sense.
Rell complained that the bill was not limited to terminally ill patients. But cancer patients use marijuana to fight the nausea caused by chemotherapy, thereby making a potentially lifesaving treatment bearable. AIDS patients use marijuana to get back their appetites and thereby counteract a potentially fatal wasting syndrome. In both cases, marijuana helps patients avoid death, which should be at least as important as making someone's few remaining days more comfortable. Meanwhile, people with chronic diseases such as MS use marijuana to improve their daily functioning, which ought to count for something, especially if they're nowhere near death. In short, Rell's proposed dying-patients-only requirement is an arbitrary limitation with no medical or humanitarian basis.
Even while suggesting that the bill should be more restrictive, Rell worried that it would not make marijuana legal enough. "There are no pharmacies, storefronts or mail order catalogs where patients or caregivers can legally purchase marijuana plants or seeds," she said in her veto message. "I am troubled by the fact that, in essence, this bill forces law abiding citizens to seek out drug dealers to make their marijuana purchases." It's the current law that forces patients to seek out drug dealers; the medical marijuana bill would at least have given them the option of legally growing their own. It also would have made their possession of marijuana legal under state law. Since local and state governments make almost all marijuana arrests, removing that threat would make a big difference for patients worried about going to jail, even though marijuana would still be banned at the federal level.