With Gov. Dannel Malloy's (D) signature on Friday, Connecticut became the 17th state to allow doctors to recommend marijuana for medical uses, setting up what will be the most restrictive regulatory framework for dispensing the drug anywhere in the nation.

"For years, we've heard from so many patients with chronic diseases who undergo treatments like chemotherapy or radiation and are denied the palliative benefits that medical marijuana would provide," Gov. Malloy said in prepared text. "With careful regulation and safeguards, this law will allow a doctor and a patient to decide what is in that patient's best interest."

The state's senate approved the law earlier this month by a vote of 21 to 13.

While Connecticut's marijuana legalization does represent a significant victory for drug reform advocates, it bears practically no resemblance to marijuana laws in any other state.

Connecticut's medical marijuana patients and their caregivers are now allowed to possess up to one month's supply of the medicine, but patients are first required to register with the state's Department of Consumer Protection. Dispensaries of the sort seen in Los Angeles or Denver will not be allowed -- only licensed pharmacists may dispense the drug -- and no more than 10 licensed growers will be operating in the state at any given time.

Doctors who make marijuana recommendations will also be subjected to enhanced scrutiny by the Prescription Monitoring Program, and the drug will be sold in measured doses. Public nuance provisions in the law also mean that it cannot be used in public places, near anyone under the age of 18, in motor vehicles or near school grounds. Additionally, panels of doctors will be set up to determine the maximum quantity of marijuana each patient will be allowed to possess.

Lawmakers also drew up a list of specific diseases which are eligible for a doctor to lawfully recommend marijuana. They include: "cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia (emaciation often caused by cancer or cardiac diseases), wasting syndrome, Chrohn’s disease, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other medical conditions, treatments and diseases."

"We don’t want Connecticut to follow the path pursued by some other states, which essentially would legalize marijuana for anyone willing to find the right doctor and get the right prescription," the governor said. "In my opinion, such efforts run counter to federal law.  Under this law, however, the Department of Consumer Protection will be able to carefully regulate and monitor the medicinal use of this drug in order to avoid the problems encountered in some other states."

The Obama administration still considers marijuana to be illegal no matter what it's being used for, even in states where voters or lawmakers have set up a clear regulatory framework. Reform advocates say the administration has staged more raids on medical marijuana dispensaries than the George W. Bush administration.

Legalizing medical marijuana is actually the second significant drug reform for Gov. Malloy, who approved a measure last year that decriminalized minor marijuana possession, adjusting the penalty for first offenses to a fine of just $150 and a mandating a drug education course for third-time offenders. The state’s Office of Fiscal Analysis noted at the time that it would add nearly $1.5 million to state coffers, with most coming from law enforcement savings and revenue collected from fines.


Photo: Andre Blais / Shutterstock.com.