Connecticut Becomes The 17th State To Allow For The Limited Legalization Of Marijuana As Medicine

Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy signed legislation into law on Friday, June 1, allowing for the state-sanctioned production, distribution, and use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The new law – Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana – will take effect on October 1, 2012.

“For years, we’ve heard from so many patients with chronic diseases who undergo treatments like chemotherapy or radiation and are denied the palliative benefits that medical marijuana would provide,” Governor Malloy said in a prepared statement. (Read it here.) “With careful regulation and safeguards, this law will allow a doctor and a patient to decide what is in that patient’s best interest.”

Under the law, patients with a qualifying “debilitating medical condition” must receive “written certification” from a physician and register with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). Qualifying patients and their primary caregivers will be allowed to possess a combined one-month supply of cannabis, the specific amount of which will be determined by a board consisting of eight physicians certified by appropriate medical boards and enforced through DCP regulations. Patients may obtain marijuana from certified pharmacists at licensed dispensaries, who will obtain it from licensed producers. The law allows for the licensing of at least three, but no more than ten, producers statewide.

Said Erik Williams, Executive Director of Connecticut NORML, who assisted in drafting the bill and generated over 36,000 phone calls and e-mails to lawmakers in support of the measure, “I am so happy for all the patients who will have another medicinal option to discuss with their doctor and for all of those currently suffering with debilitating conditions who will no longer suffer the indignity of being sick and a criminal.”

Connecticut is the 17th state since 1996 to allow for the limited legalization of medicinal cannabis. It is the fourth New England state to do so, joining Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont — each of which allow for qualified patients to possess and cultivate limited quantities of the plant.

Late last month, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed into law similar legislation allowing for the state-licensed production and limited distribution of medicinal cannabis. Vermont lawmakers in 2011 approved a similar measure; however, to date the state has yet to license any statewide dispensaries. Presently, a total of eight state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in Maine.

Similar state-licensed dispensaries operate in Colorado and New Mexico. Additional licensing legislation awaits implementation in Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.

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