New legislative session begins with legalization on the agenda

 

Last update: January 4, 2017

 

Legalizing, Taxing, and Regulating Marijuana for Adults’ Use

The Connecticut Legislature, which convened on January 4, is expected to consider legislation that would end marijuana prohibition for adult use and replace it with a system that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

A 2015 poll by Quinnipiac found that 63% of Connecticut voters support legalization of marijuana for adult use. Currently, eight states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana, including Maine and Massachusetts. This year, other New England states, such as Rhode Island and Vermont, are considering legalization legislation.

Make sure your lawmakers know voters don’t want Connecticut to be left behind when it comes to sensible marijuana policy. Please ask your representatives and senator to support legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Unlike legal substances such as prescription opiates, alcohol, Tylenol, and even water, marijuana has never caused a single medically documented overdose death in recorded history. Alcohol causes hundreds of overdose deaths each year, and in 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 29,001 “alcohol-induced deaths.” It is time to stop penalizing Americans who choose the safer option.

 


Medical marijuana

Recent events:

In 2016, both regulators and lawmakers expanded Connecticut’s medical marijuana program.

In January, the Department of Consumer Protection approved three additional dispensaries. (See a listing of dispensaries here.) The following month, a legislative committee approved the department’s addition of six new conditions to the 11 already included in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Connecticut is the only medical marijuana state that completely excludes minors, but that will change when a new law takes effect on October 1. On May 17, 2016, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 5450, which will allow minors to qualify if they have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions, if they have two physicians’ certifications, and if their parents consent. HB 5450 will also allow dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to certain medical facilities and will allow nurses to administer marijuana at health care facilities.

Legislative history and background:

Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012. The program protects patients and caregivers from arrest and prosecution if they have a valid registration card and if the medical marijuana was obtained from the specific dispensary where the patient is registered.

While the program’s expansion is an important move, Connecticut’s law remains far more limited than most other medical marijuana states’ laws. There are several areas of possible improvement, including adding intractable pain and allowing patients access to more than one dispensary. Hopefully, 2017 will see more successful efforts to improve the program. To learn more about Connecticut’s medical marijuana program and how it compares to the programs in other states, visit our state-by-state report.


Decriminalization

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. 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, adults are still being punished for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol, while most crimes with victims go unsolved.


Take action!

Speak out: Please ask your legislators to take marijuana off the criminal market, to legalize it for adults, and to tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol.

Stay connected: You can stay up to date on all the latest news and information in Connecticut by subscribing to MPP’s free email alerts.

Contact us: If you are a law enforcement official, a clergy member, a member of the legal community, or a community leader who supports regulating marijuana, please email state@mpp.org to see how you can be of special help. Be sure to include your zip code so we can determine who your legislators are.