By Paul Armentano, NORML
Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation May 5, 2012 to allow for the limited use and distribution of cannabis as medicine.
The state Senate voted 21 to 13 in favor of HB 5389, the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA), after a similar approval by the General Assembly cleared the way for Gov. Dannel Malloy (D), who supported the Act, to sign the bill into law.
Connecticut is the 17th state since 1996 to allow limited legalization for medical use and the fourth New England state to do so, joining Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.
“Today is a day of hope, compassion and dignity and I thank all of the legislators who worked hard on this legislation and who voted to pass this bill,” said Erik Williams, Executive Director of Connecticut NORML, who helped draft the bill and generate over 36,000 phone calls and e-mails to lawmakers in support of it. “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. ”
The PUMA mandates the state to license a limited number of producers to cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Patients must have a written recommendation from their doctor to become a state-registered ‘qualifying patient.’ Unlike in other medical cannabis states, patients will be required to obtain cannabis via licensed pharmacists, who must acquire permits from the Dept of Consumer Protection (DCP) to dispense cannabis.
The DCP began drafting a detailed regulatory framework upon passage, and the bulk of the law takes effect Oct. 1.
Connecticut NORML took a lead role in the passage of separate statewide legislation that decriminalized the possession of marijuana by adults from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a fine, no arrest, no jail time and no criminal record. The state has since seen a dramatic reduction in the number of marijuana arrests.