Connecticut Legislature in session; legalization not on the agenda
Last update: February 4, 2016
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 have each replaced Connecticut’s prohibition of marijuana with sensible regulations for adults’ use. 2016’s legislative session is a short one, and thus far no similar bills have been introduced. But, with Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont seriously considering replacing marijuana prohibition with regulation, change may be on the near horizon in Connecticut, too.
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.
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 the only state 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.
Last year, two bills were introduced that would have helped provide important access to medical marijuana for minors. HB 5892, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ryan, would have allowed access to qualified minors who have permission and supervision by a parent or guardian. Another bill, HB 6862, would have simply studied 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. 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.
On January 12, the Department of Consumer Protection approved three additional dispensaries — two in Milford and one in Waterbury — which will bring the total number to nine. The dispensaries could be open by June.
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Contact us: If you are a law enforcement official, a clergy member, a member of the legal community who supports regulating marijuana, 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 who your legislators are.