The Connecticut medical marijuana program can now officially move forward after proposed regulations for the newly-created industry were approved last night by the state General Assembly. The rules now head to the secretary of state for filing.
Officials say that within two weeks the new medical marijuana department will be accepting grower and retailer applications. Licenses should be issued at the start of the new year, which means medical marijuana dispensaries are at least five months away from being open.
Connecticut law limits the number of growers in the state to 10, though likely the state will only license three to five grows in the first year according to consumer protection commissioner William Rubenstein. That number will increase as demand increases. Rubenstein tells the Hartford Courant that there are about 881 registered medical marijuana patients in the state.
Though medical marijuana was signed into law back in June of 2012, several state lawmakers still were holdouts in voting to approve the licensing regulations out of fear that they could face federal prosecution. Sen. Len Fasano, a Republican from North Haven likened his participation in approving the laws as taunting the feds like "standing there with the cape in front of a bull".
But most everyone else seemed to listen to reason as well as take a cue from the 18-or-so other states with medical marijuana regulations already in place.
We have always been of the belief that the more assurance that we have that marijuana would be limited to its medical use and not subject to theft and diversion, that there's less possibility of our program conflicting with federal law," Rubenstein said at the hearing.
In many ways, the decision marks the start of the actual program to patients like Tracey Gamer Fanning. Fanning, who battles brain cancer, tells NBC Connecticut that marijuana is the only thing that can relieve her nausea and pain. "I am so grateful that all the people who were involved said yes today," Fanning told the news outlet.
For more information on medical cannabis in Connecticut, visit the Department of Consumer Protection website.