Connecticut considers ending marijuana prohibition
Last update: November 29, 2016
Legalizing, Taxing, and Regulating Marijuana for Adults’ Use
Eight states and Washington D.C. have now legalized marijuana for adult use, including Maine and Massachusetts. Now, several other New England states are revisiting legalization through legislation including Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut.
Earlier this year, a group of Connecticut state representatives introduced HB 5236, which proposed legalizing and regulating the sale and use of marijuana for adults. While HB 5236 did not pass during the 2016 short session, the lead sponsor, Rep. Juan Candelaria, held a public hearing and worked to educate his colleagues. Advocates and allies are working to prepare for the next legislative session, which starts on February 3.
A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of voters in Connecticut — 52% — support legalizing cannabis for adults. Unlike the states that have legalized marijuana for adult use, however, Connecticut does not have a ballot initiative process, so it’s crucial that voters reach out to their elected officials about this issue.
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Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012.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.
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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.