General Law and Judiciary Committees approve bills to legalize and regulate cannabis; governor and legislative leaders support ending prohibition in 2019
Last update: April 9, 2019
The election of Ned Lamont as governor dramatically improved the outlook for cannabis policy reform in Connecticut. Lamont voiced strong support for legalization and regulation throughout his campaign in 2018, and he indicated that he would make the issue a top priority in the 2019 legislative session. "It's an idea whose time has come, and I'm going to push it in the first year," he said.
On March 25, the General Law Committee voted to pass HB 7371, a bill that would regulate cannabis. MPP testified in support of this bill at the public hearing and suggested several improvements, including adjustments to improve social equity provisions and the addition of home cultivation and micro-businesses. You can read a summary here. Although the bill has received approval from this committee, legislative leaders have made it clear that the legislature will continue to work on the policy details in the coming weeks and months.
Another bill to legalize possession of cannabis and allow for expungement of low-level offenses passed the Judiciary Committee on April 8. You can read a summary of cannabis bills referred to the Judiciary Committee here. The bill that would tax cannabis has not yet been introduced.
MPP, Regulate Connecticut, and its member organizations will continue to inform Connecticut residents about opportunities to support reform efforts as the 2019 session continues. Legalization in Connecticut is closer than ever before, but lawmakers must continue to hear strong support from their constituents. 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Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012.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 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 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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