Connecticut expands medical program
Last update: August 15, 2016
Administrative and legislative action expanded Connecticut’s medical marijuana program throughout 2016.
In February, the Connecticut General Assembly’s bipartisan Regulation Review Committee added six new conditions to the 11 already included in the state’s medical marijuana program.
On May 17, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 5450, which will make changes to Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, including access for some patients who are under 18. Minors will have to have been diagnosed with terminal illness, an irreversible spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, or severe or intractable epilepsy. In addition, they must have a written certification from two doctors — a primary care provider and a specialist. Finally, a parent or guardian must also submit a written statement of consent and attest that they will serve as the minor patient’s primary caregiver. This will go into effect on October 1, 2016.
HB 5450 will also allow dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to hospices and inpatient facilities and will allow nurses to administer marijuana in licensed 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Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012.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. Legal protections do not apply if the medication is obtained from another dispensary or from outside of Connecticut. The original program did not allow any minor patients to participate.
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 a general category for intractable pain, allowing patients access to more than one dispensary, and an expansion of the provisions related to minors. Hopefully, 2017 will see more successful efforts to improve the program.
To learn more about the specifics of the Connecticut 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. Most importantly, those accused of being in possession are not saddled with criminal records, which can mark a person for life. 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, penalties still exist for adults in possession of a substance that is less harmful than alcohol. Data reported to the FBI by state law enforcement shows that in 2012, 85% of all marijuana-related arrests or citations were for possession. During the same period, over 76% of all reported rapes and 85% of all burglaries, including home invasions, went unsolved. Law enforcement should focus its resources and time on serious crime instead of pursuing people in possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Tax and regulate
On February 11, a group of Connecticut state representatives introduced HB 5236, legislation that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana for adults. While HB 5236 did not pass during this year’s short session, the lead sponsor, Rep. Juan Candelaria, held a public hearing and worked to educate his colleagues, which will help build the foundation for passage.
In addition to the four states and Washington D.C. that have already legalized adult use, several of Connecticut’s neighboring states are currently considering legalization, including Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of voters in Connecticut support legalizing cannabis for adults. Fifty-two percent of all voters, and 80% of voters under 30 years old, support legalizing the possession of personal use amounts of marijuana for adults.
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