Multiple hearings scheduled for March!
Last update: March 15, 2018
The Connecticut legislative session started in February, with marijuana legalization as a legislative priority for several lawmakers. This Spring, four committees are expected to hold hearings, each on different aspects of a regulatory system – General Law, Judiciary, Finance, and Appropriations. On Thursday, March 15, the General Law Committee held a hearing on HB 5458, a bill that would create a system for licensing marijuana businesses. The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on SB 487 on Monday, March 19.
Last year, supporters were hopeful that marijuana legalization and regulation would be included in the final budget as a way to address the state’s financial problems. House and Senate Democrats included legalization in their early budget proposal. Unfortunately, it was not included in the final bill — a $41.3 billion, two-year state budget that increases taxes by approximately $1 billion over that period. That number could have been significantly reduced had the budget included taxing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use.
According to a recent poll, 71% of Connecticut residents support regulating and taxing marijuana for adults’ use. It’s not surprising that public support continues to grow in the state as neighboring states move forward with implementation.
Democrats include legalization in budget proposal
On May 16, 2017, Connecticut Democrats revealed their newest budget proposal, which includes the taxing and regulating of marijuana for adults’ use. It’s time for Republicans and Gov. Dannel Malloy to join them and the majority of Connecticut residents who support a sensible approach to marijuana policy.
During the General Assembly’s 2017 session, momentum built for legalization with four bills introduced— SB 11, HB 5314, HB 5539, and HB 6518. Hearings were held in two committees, but the bills ultimately failed in committee. However, budget negotiations create a genuine opportunity for Connecticut to adopt a tax and regulate program this year.
In addition to calls and emails, you can help with ending and replacing marijuana prohibition by supporting the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana led by Director Sam Tracy. Like the coalition on Facebook or follow it on Twitter. Interested organizations, volunteers, and grasstops leaders, such as clergy, doctors, and law enforcement, can join the team by completing our form here.
Please also let us know if you have been negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition, including if you’ve been arrested or cited, or if you’ve been in a dangerous situation due to marijuana’s illegality.
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.
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.
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 [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.