Legislative session ends with historic progress on marijuana
Last update: August 28, 2018
On May 9, 2018, the Connecticut Legislature adjourned following a bipartisan vote to pass a $20 billion budget. Unfortunately, marijuana legalization for adults was not included in the budget and did not get a standalone vote. However, thanks to the hard work of our legislative champions and advocates, it was an historic year for marijuana policy reform in Connecticut.
During the 2018 legislative session, six bills were introduced and four hearings were held on the issue. And, for the first time, a legislative committee voted to move one of those bills forward. Although neither chamber held a vote, this year’s success creates a strong foundation for enactment in 2019.
The end of session does not mean an end to marijuana policy efforts in Connecticut. The entire House and Senate will face re-election in November, so there will be countless opportunities to speak to lawmakers about this issue while they’re on the campaign trail.
Notably, in the race to succeed Dannel Malloy as governor, Democratic candidate Ned Lamont has voiced strong support for ending marijuana prohibition. His opponent, Republican Bob Stefanowski, has said he believes more research is necessary before this should be considered. A Quinnipiac poll published in August found that 59% of Connecticut voters support legalizing marijuana, while only 36% were opposed.
MPP, Regulate Connecticut, and its member organizations will continue to inform Connecticut residents about opportunities to support reform efforts as the election draws nearer. Legalization in Connecticut is closer than ever before, but lawmakers and candidates must continue to feel the pressure during the off-season. Congratulations and thank you to all those who worked so hard this year!
Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012.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. (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 used to be the only medical marijuana state that completely excluded minors, but that changed when a new law took effect on October 1, 2016. On May 17, 2016, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 5450, which allows minors to qualify if they have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions, if they have two physicians’ certifications, and if their parents consent.
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, we 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.
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.
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