Connecticut considering legalization and regulation laws for adult consumers
Last update: October 4, 2015
Legislative history and background:
On June 1, 2012, Connecticut enacted a medical marijuana program that protects patients from arrest and prosecution if they have a valid registration card. The state Department of Consumer Protection oversees the program. A patient may obtain up to 2.5 ounces every month from a licensed dispensary, but home cultivation is prohibited. Unfortunately, the program does not currently allow for minors to access medical marijuana. Connecticut is one of the only states that prohibits seriously ill minors from having legal access to the state medical marijuana program. To learn more about the specifics of the Connecticut medical marijuana program, visit our state-by-state report.
In the last session, two bills were introduced that could help provide important access to medical marijuana for minors. HB 5892, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ryan, would allow access to qualified minors who have permission and supervision by a parent or guardian. Another bill, HB 6862, would simply study how access by minors could affect them.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana program, added four new conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions. So far in 2015, the department agreed with the Board of Physicians to include sickle cell disease, post laminectomy syndrome (“failed back syndrome”), severe psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis.
The Department of Consumer Protections also decided to add up to three additional dispensaries. The new dispensaries will likely be located in New Haven and Fairfield counties, where roughly 50% of the state’s patients live. The state received 19 applications for dispensary licenses. The department said it expects to make selections in early 2016, and the dispensaries could be open by June.
Decriminalization and prohibition
Legislative history and background:
Since 2011, possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana has been a civil violation in Connecticut, punishable by a fine of up to $150, meaning it is not a jailable offense. Subsequent offenses are subject to increased fines ranging from $200-$500. Upon a third violation, offenders are referred to a drug awareness program. Most importantly, those accused of being in possession are not saddled with criminal records, which can mark a person for life. In addition to the fine, anyone under 21 who is found in possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana faces a 60-day suspension of his or her driver’s license.
Although Connecticut has improved its marijuana laws in recent years, penalties still exist for adults in possession of a substance that is less harmful than alcohol. Data reported to the FBI by state law enforcement shows that in 2012, 85% of all marijuana-related arrests or citations were for possession. During the same period, over 76% of all reported rapes and 85% of all burglaries, including home invasions, went unsolved. Law enforcement should focus its resources and time on serious crime instead of pursuing people in possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Several positive bills were introduced in 2015. Rep. Edwin Vargas’s HB 6473 and Rep. Juan Candelaria’s HB 6703 would each replace Connecticut’s prohibition of marijuana with sensible regulations for adults’ use.
A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of voters in Connecticut support legalizing cannabis for adults. Fifty-two percent of all voters, and 80% of voters under 30 years old, support legalizing the possession of personal use amounts of marijuana for adults.
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Contact us: If you are a law enforcement official, a clergy member, a member of the legal community, or if you were arrested for simple possession of marijuana, please email [email protected] to see how you can be of special help. Be sure to include your zip code so we can determine your legislators.