- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut officials announced the selection Tuesday of the state’s first producers of legal medical marijuana, saying the move will benefit seriously ill patients while safeguards will prevent abuses.

The program will benefit people who have cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating conditions, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who joined other officials in announcing the four producers who will operate facilities in West Haven, Portland, Simsbury and Watertown. Such patients have faced a decision of whether to risk criminal prosecution to get relief from pain, Malloy said.

“These citizens deserve compassion, not arrest,” Malloy said at an empty warehouse in West Haven where marijuana soon will grow. “They deserve understanding and relief, not fines and a criminal record. And they deserve a treatment that is safe. This new law is about giving people some peace of mind and some comfort.”

While Connecticut has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, the state is not moving toward legalizing the drug, Malloy said. The state has been careful in implementing the law, he said.

“When we adopted the law in 2012, I wanted to make sure that we had specific safeguards in place to ensure that we don’t go down the same path some other states have, which essentially would legalize marijuana for anyone willing to find the right doctor to get the right prescription,” Malloy said.

The law allows the use of marijuana for patients who have one of 11 illnesses and whose doctors believe the treatment is appropriate. Patients are limited in the amount of the drug they can receive and doctors have to certify the need, officials said.

Officials also hailed the economic benefits, saying the four producers would create about 100 jobs in the first year of operation.

Officials say licenses to dispense medical marijuana are expected to be awarded in the next two months and the drug should be available in the summer to qualified patients. Officials say 1,684 patients have been certified to participate in the program.

The producers, who were chosen from among 16 applications by the state Department of Consumer Protection, are Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions in Portland, Curaleaf in Simsbury and Theraplant in Watertown.

Ethan Ruby, president of Theraplant who has been in a wheelchair for 12 years after suffering a spinal cord injury, said marijuana provided him relief from chronic pain without the side effects of other medications.

“I would love to be able to bring the relief that I have found from this palliative medicine to other people,” Ruby said.

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