Governor designates medical marijuana dispensaries and producers as ‘essential services’
Last update: March 27, 2020
As Connecticut residents are encouraged to “Stay Safe, Stay Home” amid concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus, Gov. Ned Lamont issued guidance on essential businesses that are encouraged to continue to operate. Among those included in Gov. Lamont’s executive order are medical marijuana dispensaries and producers. In a separate executive order, Gov. Lamont relaxed some regulations to improve patient access to medical cannabis in these extraordinary times. This includes allowing recommendations by telemedicine, extending renewal deadlines, and relaxing some dispensary staffing rules.
Legislative session suspended amid COVID-19 concerns
On March 12, legislative leaders ordered the Capitol and Legislative Office Building closed until March 30. On March 23, leaders reassessed the situation and decided to keep the buildings closed until April 13. Legislative leaders and committee chairs continue to prioritize and analyze bills in anticipation of session resuming. MPP and the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana will continue to encourage the legislature to pass legalization and regulation this year.
Along with several allies, MPP is also urging law enforcement to halt cannabis arrests and release cannabis prisoners in light of COVID-19. Several law enforcement personnel, prisoners, and guards have contracted the novel coronavirus. The more interactions between law enforcement and civilians, and the more incarcerated inmates, the more opportunities for transmission of the virus.
Governor’s bill to end prohibition receives public hearing
On March 2, the Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on legislation that would end prohibition and regulate marijuana for adult use in Connecticut.
In February, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) introduced Governor’s Bill No. 16, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one and a half ounces of cannabis from licensed retailers. A summary of the marijuana regulation bill can be found here.
Prior to the hearing, the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana joined together with veterans, civil rights activists, clergy, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, minority business advocates, economists, social workers, state leaders, and legislators to voice support for action on the governor’s bill and stayed to testify at the public hearing. MPP’s testimony can be found here. The deadline for moving the bill out of committee is March 30, but that is expected to be extended in light of the pause in the legislative session.
Governor and legislative leaders push to end cannabis prohibition in 2020
In March and April 2019, three legislative committees advanced bills to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis, but the legislature adjourned on June 5 without bringing them to a vote.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Ned Lamont have made it clear that they intend to make a stronger push for legalization in 2020. In January, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney said the issue is “a reality we should have dealt with already.”
During Gov. Ned Lamont’s State of the State address on February 5, he remarked, “We just marked the 100th anniversary of prohibition. How did that work out?”
Gov. Lamont called for a coordinated regional approach to marijuana regulation to protect public heath and to “right the wrongs of a war on drugs that has disproportionately impacted our minority communities.” His budget includes new staff to prepare for legal sales in 2022. A summary of Gov. Lamont's proposed cannabis regulation bill is available here.
A new January 2020 poll published by GQR confirmed, once again, that Connecticut residents strongly support legalizing cannabis, with 65 percent responding in favor.
If you live in Connecticut, please send a message to your state lawmakers and urge them to support ending cannabis prohibition!
The MPP-led Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana made it very close to the finish line in 2019 and will work to finish the job in 2020. We’re very grateful to Adam Wood for his excellent work leading the coalition and to our lobbying team, led by Julie Cammarata.
MPP, Regulate Connecticut, and its member organizations will continue to inform Connecticut residents about opportunities to support reform efforts. For regular updates, please follow the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana on Facebook and Twitter.
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.
In 2016, both regulators and lawmakers expanded Connecticut’s medical marijuana program.
In January 2016, the Department of Consumer Protection approved three additional dispensaries. In December 2018, DCP approved nine more dispensaries, bringing the statewide total to 18.
For more information about the program, including a current list of qualifying conditions and symptoms, click here.
Connecticut’s law remains more limited than most other medical marijuana states’ laws. There are several areas of possible improvement, including adding chronic pain.
In September 2019, Connecticut’s Board of Physicians recommended approving chronic pain as a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program, but that addition has not yet received final approval from the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee.
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.
Speak out: Please ask your legislators to support legalizing and regulating cannabis.
Stay connected: You can stay up to date on all the latest news and information in Connecticut by subscribing to MPP’s email alerts. And be sure to plug into the coalition on Facebook and Twitter.
Volunteer: To take your involvement a step further, volunteer! Let us know if you’re up for tabling, writing a letter-to-the-editor, phone banking, or otherwise getting more involved. We’re also looking influential voices in the debate — please be sure to fill out the form and let us know if you are a supportive member of clergy, law enforcement, educator, medical or substance abuse professional, veteran, or a person who was harmed by cannabis prohibition.