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Pharmacist Nicholas Tamborrino, owner of Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut in Branford, shows a sample of a medical marijuana prescription.

Cannabis vs. Marijuana vs. Hemp

(no, they're not the same thing)

Cannabis: A family of plants with two main branches — sativa and indica. A third category, ruderalis, is far less common. Each is full of hundreds of chemical compounds, in varying amounts depending on the type of plant, called cannabinoids and terpenes that can produce physiological effects. The best known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are utilized for their recreational as well as known and suspected therapeutic reactions. Researchers have only scratched the surface of the effects of these many compounds.

Marijuana: A non-scientific term that entered the American lexicon in the 1930s when the federal government began cracking down on the production and sale of cannabis. It has largely become synonymous with the higher-THC indica variety that is more psychoactive, produces a euphoric high, and is illegal on the federal level and in most states.

Hemp: A member of the sativa family, which has higher concentrations of CBD and extremely low amounts of THC. Hemp is non-intoxicating and is harvested by farmers for fiber, seeds and CBD.

A brief history of cannabis in (and near) Connecticut

May 31, 2012 General Assembly establishes medical marijuana program allowing use by patients, effective Oct. 1, 2012

Aug. 2013 Regulations adopted by state Department of Consumer Protection

Jan. 2014 Four producers approved

April 2014 Six dispensaries approved

Sept. 2014 Sales begin at six dispensaries

Jan. 2016 Three additional dispensaries approved

May 2016 Legislation expands program to patients under 18 for limited conditions

Nov. 2016 Massachusetts voters approve recreational sale of marijuana by 53.7%

Aug. 2018 Number of conditions expands to 31 for adults, 8 for patients under 18

Nov. 2018 Massachusetts begins recreational marijuana sales

Dec. 2018 Nine additional dispensaries approved in Connecticut, bringing the total to 18; Congress passes legislation allowing interstate commerce of hemp, with restrictions

Connecticut’s medical marijuana program: by the numbers*

 *as of March 3, 2019. Numbers are updated frequently

Registered physicians: 1,073

Registered patients, statewide: 30,984

Registered patients per county

Fairfield: 6,758

Hartford: 7,453

Litchfield: 1,949

Middlesex: 1,840

New Haven: 7,145

New London: 3,391

Tolland: 1,434

Windham: 1,012

Patients were able to start purchasing medical marijuana in September 2014.

 Patients Practitioners that have certified patients 
September 2014  2,043 182
March 2015  3,634 264
March 2016  9,699  433
March 2017  18,231 634
March 2018  26,465 834
March 2019  30,984 1,073

Source: State Department of Consumer Protection

Nine dispensaries are currently operating in Connecticut, while nine additional locations were approved in late 2018.

OPEN DISPENSARIES

Arrow Alternative Care, Hartford, 860-231-7050, and Milford, 203-874-4673, arrowalternativecare.com

Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut, Branford, 203-488-1388, bluepointwellnessct.com

Caring Nature, Waterbury, 203-437-8477, caringnaturedispensary.com

Compassionate Care Center of Connecticut, Bethel, 203-909-6869, ccc-ct.com

Prime Wellness of Connecticut, South Windsor, 860-331-8918, primewellnessofct.com

Southern CT Wellness & Healing, Milford, 203-496-5200, soctwellness.com

Thames Valley Relief, Montville, 860-848-0865, thamesvalleyrelief.com

The Healing Corner, Bristol, 860-583-4325, thehealingcorner.com

APPROVED NEW DISPENSARIES

Affinity Health & Wellness, New Haven

Arrow Alternative Care, Stamford

Bhadra Seva, Newington

Bluepoint Wellness of Westport, Westport

C-3 Ventures, Torrington

FFD Central, Willimantic

GR Vending CT, Groton

Tedra Health, Mansfield

Willow Brook Wellness, Meriden

How to Become a Medical Marijuana Patient

1. Meet with your doctor. Only your physician can initiate your application by certifying that you have a medical condition that qualifies you for a medical marijuana registration certificate.

2. Patients receive an email from the Department of Consumer Protection confirming their provider has recommended them into the program.

3. Follow steps in the email to set up an account, upload an ID, proof of Connecticut residency and a photo.

4. Register a primary caregiver. If a patient’s physician certifies the need for the patient to have a primary caregiver, the patient may register one person to act as their caregiver for their palliative use of marijuana.

5. After about four weeks, patients will receive a temporary card via email. A permanent card is then mailed to the home address 4-6 weeks after receiving the temporary.

6. Once you have a card, you can enter a dispensary.

Application fees: Patient $100; Caregiver $25

Certification is good for a year and should be renewed in the 11th month to avoid any lapse in coverage.

Qualifying conditions

Patients can only be approved to purchase medical marijuana if they are Connecticut residents being treated for a debilitating medical condition by a Connecticut-licensed physician.

For adults, debilitating medical conditions include:

Cancer • Glaucoma • Positive status for HIV or AIDS • Parkinson's disease • Multiple sclerosis • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord or irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity • Epilepsy • Cachexia • Wasting syndrome • Crohn’s disease • Post-traumatic stress disorder • Sickle cell disease • Post laminectomy syndrome with chronic radiculopathy • Severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis • Ulcerative colitis • Complex regional pain syndrome, types 1 and 2 • Cerebral palsy • Cystic fibrosis • Terminal illness requiring end-of-life care • Uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder • Spasticity or neuropathic pain associated with fibromyalgia • Severe rheumatoid arthritis • Postherpetic neuralgia • Hydrocephalus with intractable headache • Intractable headache syndromes • Neuropathic facial pain • Muscular dystrophy • Osteogenesis imperfecta • Chronic neuropathic pain associated with degenerative spinal disorders 

For patients under 18, debilitating medical conditions include:

Cerebral palsy • Cystic fibrosis • Irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity • Severe epilepsy • Terminal illness requiring end-of-life care • Uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder • Muscular dystrophy • Osteogenesis imperfecta

This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.