On June 1, 2012, Connecticut enacted a medical marijuana program that allows seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana. However, the law does not allow access for minor patients, many of whom would benefit greatly from access to this safe and effective treatment. Of the 24 states that have effective medical marijuana programs, Connecticut is the only state that does not allow access for younger patients.
A bill currently being considered, HB 5450, would allow minors to be qualifying patients. It would also allow dispensaries to distribute marijuana to hospices and other inpatient facilities and would allow nurses to administer marijuana in licensed health care facilities.
Last week, 10 Connecticut state representatives introduced HB 5236, legislation that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana for adults. While it is unlikely HB 5236 will pass during this year’s short session, garnering co-sponsors and holding a hearing this year will help build the foundation for passage down the road.
In addition to the four states and Washington D.C. that have already legalized adult use, several of Connecticut’s neighbor states are currently considering legalization including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
Legalizing marijuana for adults makes the illicit marijuana trade obsolete and would create much-needed revenue to the state during a time of financial hardship. In 2015, Colorado’s system of marijuana regulation brought in over $135 million in revenue for the state.
On Wednesday, August 19, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians will meet to discuss adding complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) to the list of conditions covered under the state’s medical marijuana law.
Complex regional pain syndrome is a chronic pain condition that usually arises following a brain injury or a trauma. The symptoms of CRPS are prolonged or excessive pain and changes in skin color, temperature, and swelling of the affected area. It typically affects arms, legs, hands, and feet and is thought to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems. Medical marijuana could provide much needed relief to Connecticut patients suffering with CRPS.
Earlier this year, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection added four new conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions. It agreed with the Board of Physicians to include sickle cell disease, post laminectomy syndrome (“failed back syndrome”), severe psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis. If the board recommends including CRPS, it is likely the Department will follow that recommendation. Please join advocates on Wednesday to show your support for CRPS patients.
The meeting is open to the public and will take place at 8:00 a.m. at 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, in Room 126.
Connecticut judges have granted more than 80 percent of requests to erase marijuana possession convictions since the state decriminalized small amounts of pot in 2011, state Judicial Branch records show.
Superior Court judges have approved 32 of 39 petitions to erase convictions for marijuana possession in the past four years, after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state lawmakers downgraded possession of less than a half-ounce of pot from a misdemeanor with potential jail time to a violation akin to a parking ticket, with fines ranging from $150 for a first offense to up to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Although the number of erasures is small compared with the thousands of arrests for marijuana possession in Connecticut over the years, defense lawyers expect many more people to apply as word spreads about a recent state Supreme Court decision. The court ruled in March that people have the right to get their convictions erased.
Similar efforts to remove past convictions are underway throughout the country, but little progress has been made so far.
Registered patients and medical representatives attended last Wednesday’s hearing in Hartford calling for four additional medical conditions to be legally treated through medical marijuana. Members of the public gave testimonies before the board petitioning for the recognition of each of the conditions — sickle cell disease, Tourette Syndrome, psoriasis arthritis and Post-Laminectomy Syndrome — a common issue following back surgery.
The meeting concluded with the proposal left unresolved, allowing for additional testimonies and materials to be submitted to the board before Dec. 12. Commissioner of Consumer Protection William Rubenstein said that the board’s next meeting in January will deliberate on the petitions and decide whether to add the conditions.
If the board approves these conditions, members must take further steps before the additions become formally recognized. Rubenstein noted that a letter of recommendation must be submitted by the board to the commissioner of Consumer Protection before another public hearing is held. The motion will be approved only after a regulations review by the general assembly, he said.
Having only just been implemented in September, Connecticut’s medical marijuana statute allows for members of the public to request other debilitating conditions be added to the original 11 eligible for medical marijuana. However, other states have similar policies that have already been amended to include additional medical maladies.
Now that Connecticut’s medical marijuana program is underway, the state’s lawmakers must approve the expansion of coverage so that patients with conditions that could be treated with the use of medical marijuana receive their medicine and symptomatic relief as well.
Officials from Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), which has been charged with organizing the state’s medical marijuana program, heard compelling public testimony Monday morning as the department prepares to establish rules regarding dispensary operations.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a medical marijuana bill into law last May, and the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana licenses in October. Unfortunately, there are no dispensaries currently operating in the state, and it is illegal for patients to grow plants for personal use.
This loophole has left patients like Tracey Gamer Fanning in an unnerving legal gray-zone. Tracey was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006. The myriad medication she was prescribed left her bedridden and unable to function. This all changed when her doctor recommend she try marijuana. “It gave me my life back,” she told CBS.
Despite the impact it’s had on Tracey’s cancer, every time she uses the drug she is breaking the law. Dedicating her limited time to medical-marijuana advocacy, Tracey lined up to speak at Monday’s hearing.
I want the politicians to see my face, the face of a mother from West Hartford who is just grateful to be at the dinner table in the evening instead of in bed, of someone who is so thankful to be part of her children’s lives, of someone who lost an advertising career but gained a life mission.
The DCP has composed a 70-page draft of regulations that mimics the state system that controls the distribution of such pharmaceuticals as OxyContin.
MPP’s Director of State Policies, Karen O’Keefe, expressed concerns over the expense of the system of production and distribution. “The provision that requires $2 million in an escrow for producers, that’s a huge sum of money,” Karen stated. “It could edge out the little guy.” MPP has submitted suggested changes to the state regulations.
This past year was undeniably the most productive 365-day period in the history of the marijuana policy reform movement. There were a number of significant accomplishments, but here is the Marijuana Policy Project’s list of the “Top 10 Marijuana Victories of 2012.” As with our previous annual lists, it includes neither important scientific developments nor important international developments. Rather, this list focuses on the biggest marijuana-related policy accomplishments in the U.S. in the last year.
The bulk of the bill will go into effect on October 1, 2012. After that, qualifying patients will be able to obtain temporary registrations to possess marijuana.
To qualify, a patient must have a doctor’s written certification and one of the following conditions: glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage causing spasms, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, or a condition added by the Department of Consumer Protection.
HB 5389 provides for access through licensed dispensaries, which only pharmacists will be allowed to file applications for. Dispensaries may obtain marijuana from licensed producers, who will pay an application fee of at least $25,000.
The good news just keeps on coming. The Connecticut House of Representatives just passed a bill to decriminalize possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana! The Senate passed the bill over the weekend, so it now heads to the desk of Governor Dan Malloy who is sure to sign it. Malloy has been a strong supporter of decriminalization and deserves much of the credit for this bill passing.
With today’s vote, the penalty for possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana will drop from a misdemeanor to a civil violation. First offense possession of a small amount of marijuana, or paraphernalia intended for it, will be punishable by a $150 fine, with penalties escalating to $200-500 for a second offense, and mandatory treatment for a third offense. Most importantly, violators will be cited rather than arrested and will not be saddled with a criminal record. Connecticut is the 14th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, joining neighboring Massachusetts, which became the 13th state when voters passed an initiative written and sponsored by MPP’s ballot committee in 2008.
Congratulations to Lorenzo Jones and the staff of A Better Way Foundation, and the Drug Policy Alliance, who together led the lobbying effort to pass SB 1014. Also, thanks and congratulations to our members in Connecticut who made calls and sent emails to their legislators in support of this common-sense reform.
Decriminalization is not the magic solution that solves all our problems, but it is a step in the right direction. During the floor debate it was noted that 20 people spent time in a Connecticut jail this year just for possession of a small amount of marijuana and, shockingly, another 10,000-12,000 were arrested for the same. That means, thanks to this bill, thousands of otherwise law-abiding people who simply choose to use a substance safer than alcohol will not be arrested and will not receive criminal records.
This unfortunate situation lends itself to serious contemplation of our current draconian marijuana laws. In Connecticut, as well as in Rhode Island, the possession of even a small amount of marijuana is considered a crime. Criminal convictions haunt individuals as a mark on their records, even if jail time is avoided. Many people will have a difficult time obtaining gainful employment, college admission or loans, and housing because of their record. Are these drastic results really justified for something as simple as possessing a small amount of a substance proven safer than alcohol?
Legislators in both Rhode Island and Connecticut have the opportunity this year to end the heavy-handed practice of labeling anyone a criminal for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Both states have bills pending that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, replacing the current criminal penalties with a more rational civil fine.
Finally, I would like to commend the minority leader for his subsequent bravery and honesty in addressing his entire chamber about this issue. He explained that prescription medications have caused severe side effects, and that marijuana alleviated bouts of pancreatitis, which put him into a coma for five days last November. I am glad he has found a medicine that helps alleviate his pain. Protecting patients, such as Rep. Watson, is why we worked so hard to pass Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law. Rhode Island’s law, for which Rep. Watson voted, includes protection from conviction for unregistered patients who have doctors’ recommendations, as well as protection from arrest for those who register.
The opinions expressed by our viewers and posters do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Marijuana Policy Project. These views are those of their individual authors alone. MPP does not condone or support the illegal use of marijuana. We do encourage open and frank discussion, but if a comment has been posted that is in some way significantly inappropriate, please email us at [email protected] to report it. Thank you, and we're looking forward to what you think!
"The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense - the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy."
"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."
"The plain and simple truth is that alcohol fuels violent behavior and marijuana does not ... alcohol contributes to literally millions of acts of violence in the United States each year. It is a major contributing factor to crimes like domestic violence, sexual assault, and homicide. Marijuana use, on the other hand, is absent in that regard from both crime reports and the scientific literature. There is simply no causal link to be found."