In Connecticut, there are currently 41, 292 registered patients and 1,270 certified physicians who can provide patient recommendations for therapeutic cannabis. As in other states, the list of physicians who will certify patients is confidential, and the Department of Health will not refer prospective patients to a certifying marijuana doctor.
The Connecticut State Department of Consumer Protection provides legislation that protects medical cannabis users from bias in the workplace, in commercial or residential rental agreements, and in the education system. Medical marijuana patients in CT cannot be refused services, access to registration for school, or be evicted solely on the grounds of being a certified medical cannabis patient.
The History of Medical Marijuana Legalization in Connecticut
Connecticut was one of the major producers of industrial hemp for over two-hundred years. The demand for hemp by manufacturers of products like rope, sails, and clothing was so great at one time. In fact, during World War II, the federal government launched a pro-hemp campaign called “Hemp for Victory.” This was an effort to encourage American farmers to grow hemp for the war effort.
After the war was over, however, the demand for hemp fell. The cultivation and manufacturing of hemp products declined. Concurrently, anti-drug policies pushed marijuana into prohibition, and with it, the hemp industry in CT. It wasn’t until 2014 that hemp was legalized for industrial cultivation in the state.
Connecticut created the first iteration of its medical marijuana program on June 1, 2012. It required patients to be registered to purchase medical marijuana only from one designated dispensary local to the individual patient.
In January of 2016, the Department of Consumer Protection approved licenses for three (3) additional dispensaries in Connecticut. In 2018, there were a total of 9 licensed dispensaries providing medical cannabis products to certified patients in CT.
Connecticut lawmakers have also implemented criminal reform. Instead of a criminal charge and incarceration, possession of cannabis will result in a ticket and fine. The fines can range from $200.00 – $500.00. After the third violation for non-medical use possession of cannabis, the individual will be remanded to a drug-abuse education program.
Will Connecticut Ever Allow Physicians to Recommend Medical Cannabis for any Condition?
As of June 2020, Connecticut has approved thirty-eight (38) health conditions that qualify adults for medical marijuana certification. There are an additional ten (10) qualifying health conditions for minors, with the assistance of designated caregivers.
It is an expansive list of symptoms and health diagnoses. In fact, Connecticut has one of the longest lists of qualifying health conditions for its medical marijuana program, surpassed only by Illinois.
When states define the medical conditions that qualify a patient for access to medical cannabis, the list inevitably leaves out certain patient groups. Legislators review the population health data to determine the patient populations specific to each type of diagnosis. If there are a high number of patients with a certain diagnosis, that diagnosis will typically be added to the qualifying health conditions or symptoms list.
The problem with that determination is that, based on public health statistics, some patients get denied the option for legalized medical marijuana. This is particularly true for patients who have more obscure or less statistically common symptoms and with rare diseases. This is why many states begin to lengthen or expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
Allowing a practitioner to determine whether the patient would benefit from therapeutic medical cannabis would allow for increased inclusivity. Louisiana recently granted its physicians the authority to recommend any patient for the state medical marijuana registry. It is a move that may allow for thousands of individuals to use medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
There are currently thirty-five (35) states that provide a medical cannabis program for qualified patients. Among those states, however, is a great disparity between the number of qualifying health conditions and the type of medical diagnoses and symptoms that allow a patient to legally use medical cannabis.
In our infographic, you can see the progression of states that are moving toward doctor recommended medical cannabis, without the definition of specific qualifying health conditions. Right now, many states have provided a list of qualifying conditions along with accommodation for the patients who do not have a diagnosis on the list.
If the physician agrees that medical cannabis would be beneficial to the wellness or symptom management needs of the patient, that may be the best and most reliable assessment of eligibility. Otherwise, patient access is very limited based on the list of qualifying diagnoses. It also streamlines the legal process and helps states reduce the administrative cost of patient appeals when they have been denied access to medical cannabis.