Legislative session ends with historic progress on marijuana
Last update: May 29, 2018
On May 9, 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. With primaries being held on August 14 and the entire House and Senate up for re-election in November, there will be countless opportunities to speak to lawmakers about this issue while they’re on the campaign trail. MPP, Regulate Connecticut, and its member organizations will be distributing materials to assist you in your advocacy, including a recess toolkit and a voter guide.
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!
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 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Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012.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, 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.
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.