Patient and advocate: Marijuana should be seen as a medicine

Timothy Clancy wants people to begin treating medical marijuana like a medicine and not like a street drug.

Clancy is one of about 900 Connecticut residents who has a doctor’s prescription and state registration card to purchase and use marijuana.

“The people using it as medicine aren’t teenagers hanging out on the corner but are sick patients, the elderly, people who are homebound,” he said. “It’s a last-resort medicine when all other pharmaceuticals have failed.”

Clancy recently spoke before the Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission, which has enacted a nine-month moratorium on receiving potential applications for marijuana producing and dispensing facilities in the city.

The Stratford resident is the founder and spokesman for CT Kind, a cannabis patient advocacy and education organization.

“I’m a patient — not a criminal,” states the Facebook page of CT Kind, which is seeking nonprofit status.

Helping patients through the process

Clancy is determined to help patients through the challenge of getting marijuana legally and to educate the general public about what he considers the many benefits of cannabis.

“We’re trying to teach the community — including doctors — about this,” he said. “We want to educate people who have the wrong notion of it.”

CT Kind volunteers are available to meet with current or potential medical cannabis patients, helping them to navigate the state’s new, still-evolving medical marijuana program.

The organization offers information and educational materials, provides testimonials, and can make doctor and lawyer referrals.

“I network with people all over the country and internationally to get answers,” Clancy said.

There are about a dozen illnesses — all life-threatening — that can qualify someone to use marijuana legally in the state, and he would like to see that number increase.

Better understood

Clancy said some of the most medically beneficial ingredients in marijuana are not those that get people high, meaning they are non-psycho-active.

The medical benefits of marijuana are becoming better understood, he said. “It isn’t just for nausea,” Clancy said.

He said marijuana was used legally for medical reasons in the United States until the 1940s. That changed partly due to lobbying by corporations such as DuPont, he said, which was making nylon to compete with rope made from hemp, a kind of cannabis.

Can be consumed in different forms

Clancy said one misconception is that marijuana has to be smoked. In addition to being available in pill form, he said cannabis can be drunk after being juiced or used as a nutritional supplement to food after being chopped up. It also can be made available as an oil.

The medical benefits of marijuana are more appreciated in some other countries around the world, Clancy said. For instance, marijuana is given to patients in Israel for dementia, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, he said.

He would like to see cannabis used in detox settings to help people get off alcohol and hard drugs. Now, he said, many people at substance abuse rehab programs receive powerful pharmaceuticals.

Now medically legal in 20 states

Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states, including all six New England states. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state.

Marijuana for medical purposes became legal on Oct. 1, 2012 in Connecticut, based on action by the state legislature and governor, but the specific guidelines and regulations pertaining to the law have just been approved by state officials.

A marijuana producer would grow the substance, and a dispensary is where patients will go to purchase the substance for medical reasons.

Clancy said he respects the Shelton P&Z’s decision to pass a moratorium, which is something some other towns are doing as well. “They are doing their due diligence to make sure it will be in a secure environment, which also is important to patients,” he said.

He said if dispensaries and producers are set up properly, they will be “out of sight and out of mind” to the general public.

Connecticut is expected to have a handful of dispensaries statewide, with a licensed pharmacist on the premises of each one. Clancy hopes to be able to buy cannabis at such a facility in Connecticut by next summer.