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As medical marijuana bill dies in state legislature, families look to leave Connecticut

Susan Meehan and her family have given up on Connecticut, and the Tarricones may not be far behind.

After the General Assembly ended the session Wednesday without a final vote on a bill that would have allowed use of medical marijuana by minors, Meehan said she’s planning to buy a house in Maine and move her three oldest daughters there from their home in Montville this summer.

“It’s worse than unfair — it’s practically criminal,” she said Thursday from Auburn, Maine, where she is staying at a friend’s home. “I have to move permanently to Maine.”

The bill, which advanced through key legislative committees and last week was scheduled for a vote in the Senate, would have lifted the ban on minors receiving medical marijuana, currently only allowed for those 18 and older.

The bill, a version introduced by the Judiciary Committee that replaced a similar one sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, at the request of the Meehans, was supported by the state Department of Consumer Protection, which administers the current law. The Senate, however, failed to take the bill up before adjourning.

“It leaves us with having to separate our family and move to Colorado or Maine or Rhode Island,” said Cara Tarricone, who lives in North Windham with her spouse, Diane, and their two children, 7-year-old twins, Blake and West.

West suffers from severe and worsening seizures that have been causing her to stop breathing at night, Tarricone said, and medical marijuana is the only option left after prescription medications have failed. The family’s plan now is for Diane Tarricone to stay in Connecticut, where she works three jobs to support the family, and for Cara Tarricone to move with the children to a state where it’s legal for minors to be given medical marijuana.

“We were so hopeful about the bill,” she said. “It made it so far, and then for the Senate to not even vote on it ... , How much longer are we going to let her suffer?”

About two years ago, Meehan moved with the youngest of her four daughters, 12-year-old Cyndimae, to a friend’s house in Maine so she could legally administer marijuana oil to control Cyndimae’s seizures, caused by Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Her husband, Robert, remained in Montville, where the family was active in the Mohegan tribe and local schools.

But after their oldest daughter graduated from St. Bernard School last week and the Connecticut legislature failed to legalize medical marijuana for minors, Meehan said the family decided to make Maine their new home.

“Cyndimae is only having breakthrough seizures every seven to 23 days now,” said Meehan. “She’s so much more energetic.”

Before she began giving her daughter marijuana oil on the advice of Cyndimae’s neurologist, the 12-year-old was having multiple debilitating seizures daily that often kept her confined to a wheelchair, Meehan said. Prescription medications weren’t working. Now, the girl can play kickball, climb on a playscape and acts more like the pre-teen she is, her mother said.

Meehan said Maine law allows her to grow the specific strain that works best for her daughter and prepare it into a medication herself. That’s a key part of the success of the treatment for her daughter, she believes, and wouldn’t have been allowed in Connecticut. The way the bill considered by the legislature this session was written, medical marijuana could only be obtained through licensed dispensaries.

Still, Meehan said, she supported the bill and believes that after it passed, changes could have been made in the future that would have made staying in Connecticut possible. If it had passed, she said, she would have continued renting a house in Maine in hopes of moving back to her home state in the future.

She said she also supported the bill for other Connecticut families with severely ill children who are getting no relief from prescription medications.

“I know there are kids in Connecticut who have nothing else left to try,” she said. “They’re having seizures every night, and they’re going to die.”

Jonathan Harris, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, said this week that the bill would have allowed minors to receive medical marijuana with two consent letters from physicians. It would also have allowed nurses and other caregivers to give medical marijuana to patients in hospice “and other end-of-life situations,” he said.

Additionally, it would have allowed medical marijuana to be used for research. It would have continued restrictions on the delivering marijuana medication in public places including schools, he said, but “those are things we could fix going forward.”

Twitter: @BensonJudy


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