Mar 27, 2013
12:13 PMConnecticut Today
Connecticut Medical Marijuana Law Calls for Strict Requirements for Growers, Users
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Lori Labreck is clearly proud of her crop. Sounding like an organic farmer in a “Buy Locally Grown” T-shirt, she talks glowingly of the high quality of her plants and worries about mold and pest issues that could potentially kill them. Yet her crop is not likely to appear for sale at a farmer’s market anytime soon.
Labreck’s crop is marijuana and as a “caregiver” in Maine, she can legally grow marijuana and provide it to patients who have been prescribed the drug by their doctors. In October, Connecticut became the 17th state in the U.S. to permit some form of medical marijuana, recently joined by Washington, D.C., although it is still prohibited under federal law. So legal cannabis plants will soon be taking root in Connecticut, possibly by the end of the year. Under a strictly regulated program, doctors will be able to prescribe state-grown medical marijuana to alleviate debilitating symptons of and chronic pain from certain ailments.
Proponents of medical marijuana say its legalization in the Land of Steady Habits will provide an effective treatment option for patients, potentially create a budding (no pun intended) multimillion-dollar industry and possibly serve as a model for the regulation of medical marijuana in other states. In some states, such as California, regulations regarding medical marijuana are relatively lax and critics charge that many are able to obtain marijuana prescriptions for “ailments” as flimsy as “being out-of-weed-itis.” Connecticut has taken a decidedly stricter approach.
“We modeled a lot of what we do on how we regulate the pharmaceutical industry,” says William M. Rubenstein, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), which will oversee the growth and distribution of medical marijuana in Connecticut. “Our program will limit the access to those truly sick patients who can get a benefit from use. Because we’re using a pharmaceutical model, the problems of access and abuse won’t be any different for marijuana than for any other pharmaceutical drug.”
On June 1, the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act, House Bill 5389, was signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy. Since it went into effect Oct. 1, patients can register for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but so far, a system that allows for its legal growth and distribution has not yet been implemented. In January, the DCP drafted an almost 80-page proposal that will be submitted by July 1 to the General Assembly for approval.
Rubenstein says the plan is to make marijuana available to patients as soon as possible. “The end of this year would be optimistic, but doable,” he suggests, but “it’s more likely the system will be up and running by the beginning of 2014.”
While drafting the proposal, officials visited a marijuana-dispensary facility in Maine, which made medical marijuana legal in 2009, and looked at other states that have adopted medical marijuana statutes. “You learn from good examples and from bad examples,” Rubenstein says. “We took pieces from other states that we thought worked, but by and large what you see are regulations that follow a pharmaceutical-regulation path.”