Will This Be the Year Connecticut Legalizes Medical Marijuana?

Jun 2, 2011

The legislative session ends next Wednesday, June 8, and there are dozens of bills that lawmakers have yet to take up. One bill that has bi-partisan support this year is a proposal to legalize medical marijuana. WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports

The General Assembly passed a medical marijuana bill in 2007 only to see then-Governor Jodi Rell veto it. This year's proposal is similar; the bill would allow patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to obtain a prescription for small amounts of marijuana for palliative use.

Erik Williams is the Executive Director of Connecticut's chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws or CT NORML. Williams says it's likely an amended bill will be introduced to address a number of questions raised by lawmakers

"Namely what are the illnesses, ailments, and diseases for which it can be prescribed and what are the means for growing and dispensing. And that's a major part of it as well, just the idea of asking an elderly person living in an urban apartment with a debilitating disease and asking them to grow medical grade marijuana, it's just not feasible."

Questions over who can distribute medical marijuana and where it can be obtained have been controversial in some states.  Recently Rhode Island's governor suspended plans for dispensaries there after its U.S attorney issued a letter saying the state's so called compassion centers could face federal raids because they violate U.S drug laws. Other states that are considering medical marijuana laws have also asked for federal direction.  Williams points to the Ogden Memo, released by US Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009. The memo states that federal prosecutors will not waste resources going after people who legally follow state laws on medical marijuana.

He adds, Connecticut lawmakers will try to avoid confusion by being specific about regulations such as tasking the state Department of Consumer Protection with licensing dispensaries and registering medical marijuana patients.

"There will also be a board of doctors who will take things on a case by case basis. in other states we have what we call pot docs and in those cases you walk in and they will almost always give you a prescription, that's not what we're going to see here."

If the bill makes it to Governor's desk, Dannel Malloy says he'll sign it into law.