Judge: Conn marijuana law having modest impact
By Ed Jacovino boston.com
But it's less clear whether the change has spared the time and resources of police, prosecutors, and courtrooms -- as proponents had predicted.
"This change, to be perfectly candid, it's a modest effect on our court dockets," Judge Robert Devlin said recently. Devlin is the chief administrative judge for criminal matters.
That change comes after the General Assembly made it an $150 infraction to possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. The law went into effect July 2011.
Before, it was a criminal misdemeanor to possess any amount. The lowest charge was possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana, which carried a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in prison for the first offense.
These are the most recent figures from the Judicial Department:
-- There were 4,928 charges of possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana from July 1 to Nov. 30, 2010, according to figures provided by the courts.
-- There were 1,155 charges of possession of between 4 ounces and a half-ounce during the same five months in 2011. That's a decrease of 76.5 percent, or 3,773.
-- 1,965 tickets were issued for possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana during that period in 2011.
The figures show a decrease in the total number of marijuana citations, whether ticket or arrest. But they don't indicate whether decriminalization led to a significant decrease in court activity. That's because many people charged with marijuana possession also face other charges.
When legislators debated the bill in the spring of 2011, supporters contended too much time and money were spent by police and the courts pursuing criminal cases against people found with small amounts of marijuana.
Opponents countered that any savings from the change would be minimal.
Judge Devlin said that when it comes to the numbers, both sides have a point.
Police often will make an arrest for one thing and then find drugs, Devlin said. "On the other hand, there are cases where it's strictly a marijuana charge. It happens both ways."
Michael P. Lawlor, the undersecretary of the Office of Policy and Management for criminal justice policy, pushed for the legislation on behalf of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Lawlor's main argument was that it would free up time for police, courts, and the probation system.
The change had the greatest effect on the probation system, he said Monday. That's because after defendants entered a diversionary program they were put on probation, Lawlor said.
He also said the change was aimed at setting priorities for police and prosecutors.
"The message we're trying to send to the entire law enforcement community is we want you to focus on violent crime and serious crime," he said. "There's a lot of stuff that comes through the court system that by anyone's definition is not necessary."
But opponents question whether the lowered penalty made a significant change.
Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane was among the bill's most outspoken opponents. He said he doubted the change would save time for prosecutors.
And, after talking to several prosecutors recently, they agree it hasn't, Kane said.
"They have not noticed any significant decrease in their workload," he said. "A lot of the cases, the people who are charged have other charges too."
Kane also questioned whether people who got a ticket for having marijuana would go to court to challenge it -- some have, and asked that they be put into the diversionary program rather than have the infraction on their records, he said.
And Kane questioned whether it's appropriate policy to simply issue a ticket. Lawmakers usually support the educational programs as a way to prevent people from reoffending, especially when it comes to issues of substance abuse.
The Police Chiefs Association also was skeptical. South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed is co-chairman of the group's legislative committee and said police rarely charge someone only with marijuana possession.
"We don't just see somebody standing on the corner smoking some marijuana," he said. "It's always part of another case."
And police officers issuing the new infraction tickets still are taking evidence and writing incident reports. The only time they're saving is in taking fingerprints, Reed said.
He also wondered about the effect on teenagers. "When you say something is a criminal offense it sends a strong message," he said. "Once you start to eat away at that classification, it's somewhat a tacit approval of its use."
Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, opposed the bill when it came before the Democrat-controlled legislature. But as the top Republican on the legislature's Judiciary Committee, he inserted one change: That those under 21 ticketed for possession have their driver's licenses suspended for 60 days.
Kissel also said that whenever crime statistics are in play, it should be noted that crime overall is down in the state.
Medical marijuana businesses stirring in Connecticut
An Arizona businessman visited the state Tuesday to promote his marijuana-dispensing machine, and a lawyer says he will shift some of his business to representing clients with medical conditions seeking permission to buy marijuana.
Bruce Bedrick — chief executive of Medbox Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz. — was in Hartford Tuesday to show off a ‘‘mock dispensary’’ that would make medical marijuana available to eligible patients.
‘‘We expect competition to be fierce,’’ he said. ‘‘As much as I want to be in the business, a lot of other people will be in the business.’’
Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Connecticut’s medical marijuana legislation into law June 1, prompting the Department of Consumer Protection to begin writing regulations. Commissioner William Rubenstein said rules are not expected to be in place until next year.
The law making Connecticut the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana takes effect Oct. 1. By then, the consumer protection agency will establish a temporary registration procedure for patients to be protected from prosecution, Rubenstein said.
The Consumer Protection Department will look to its own experience as it drafts medical marijuana rules, he said.
The agency issues liquor and pharmacy licenses, and its lawyers, drug control agents, and other staff members know how to establish a licensing system with background checks, Rubenstein said.
The agency also is looking at the experience of other states and is getting suggestions from businesses, he said.
‘‘There’s no end of advice we’re getting from people who would like to be in this industry,’’ Rubenstein said.
Connecticut’s new law permits marijuana to be sold in multiple forms at dispensaries that have a licensed pharmacist on staff, and marijuana may be marketed only to patients authorized to use it. The measure also outlines specific diseases that would be treated by the drug, establishes a registration system for patients and caregivers, and restricts cultivating the plant to growers with permits.
Erik Williams — executive director of the Connecticut chapter of NORML, which advocates for repealing laws prohibiting marijuana — said the new law will spur growth in industries growing and distributing marijuana and ancillary businesses that sell indoor growing systems, energy-efficient lights, and other equipment.
The law allows marijuana use for ‘‘debilitating medical conditions’’ that include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and numerous other conditions that may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection.
In the meantime, business owners and others will have to wait until Connecticut regulators draw up medical marijuana rules.
‘‘There are questions that are unanswered now,’’ Bedrick said.
Connecticut Lawmakers Vote To Allow For The Limited Legalization Of Medical Marijuana
CT, welcome to the club, MASS you are next. - UA
By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director cannabis.hawaiinewsdaily.com
Members of the Connecticut Senate today voted in favor of HB 5389, the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act. Their vote follows similar approval by the General Assembly. Today’s vote clears the way for Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy, a supporter of the Act, to sign the bill into law.
Connecticut will become the 17th state since 1996 to allow for the limited legalization of medicinal cannabis. It will be 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. “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 statewide efforts of Connecticut NORML resulted in tens of thousands of phone calls, emails, patient and legislator meetings, and letters to legislators. “Patients and doctors told their stories and asked legislators to tell them ‘No, you haven’t suffered enough,’” said Williams. “Many others stressed that this bill did medical marijuana the correct way and that Connecticut had an opportunity to be a leader in America on this issue. Our strategy and dedication has obviously paid off.”
The Palliative Use of Marijuana Act mandates the state to license a limited number of producers to cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Qualified patients under this act would obtain cannabis via licensed pharmacists, which would obtain permits to dispense the substance from the state Department of Consumer Protection.
In addition to the efforts of Connecticut NORML, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the A Better Way Foundation, ACLU, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) all actively worked to help pass the bill.
The new law, once signed by the Governor, will take effect on October 1, 2012.
Last year, 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 jail time, and no criminal record.
Medical Marijuana: How Would The Law Work?
Last Wednesday the Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The legislation still awaits action in the Senate and would have to be signed by the governor to become law. While we wait for the next step, we answer some common questions people have about the legalization of medical marijuana.
Q. Who would be eligible to use medical marijuana, if the proposed legislation becomes law?
A. To qualify, a patient would need to be certified by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition — cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome,Crohn's disease orpost-traumatic stress disorder — or any medical condition, medical treatment or disease approved by the Department of Consumer Protection and a Board of Physicians that would be established. Patients would have to be at least 18. Prison inmates could not qualify, regardless of their medical condition.
Q. What about other medical conditions for which patients could benefit from medical marijuana?
A. An eight-member Board of Physicians would be established, including physicians and surgeons who are board-certified in one of the following specialties: neurology, pain medicine, pain management, medical oncology, psychiatry, infectious disease, family medicine or gynecology. The board would be able to determine additional medical conditions, medical treatments or diseases that qualify for palliative use of marijuana. A process to petition the board and to comment on additions under consideration would be established.
Q. How would patients obtain medically approved marijuana?
A. Marijuana would be dispensed only by pharmacists specifically licensed to dispense it to patients with a certificate from a physician. A qualifying patient and his or her primary caregiver would be required to register with the Department of Consumer Protection. A primary caregiver who has ever been convicted of violating any law pertaining to a controlled substance would not be permitted to register.
Q. What would a physician have to do to prescribe marijuana?
A. The physician would be required to make a medically reasonable assessment that it would be in the patient's best interest, based on the patient's medical history and medical condition, in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship. The physician who diagnosed the qualifying patient also would have to explain the potential risks and benefits of palliative marijuana to the patient or, if the patient lacks legal capacity, to the patient's parent, guardian or other legal custodian. Physicians could not have any financial interest in a pharmacy licensed to dispense marijuana.
Q. Would every pharmacy in the state dispense medical marijuana?
A. No. Licensed pharmacies would need to obtain a dispensary license from the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection. The commissioner would determine the maximum number of licenses appropriate to meet the needs of qualifying patients in the state. The commissioner also would develop regulations on how often pharmacies would have to renew their dispensary licenses (at least every two years), licensing fees and areas where dispensaries could not be located, based on the criteria governing the location of retail liquor premises.
Q. Who would grow the marijuana?
A. The consumer protection commissioner would license producers to cultivate marijuana and distribute it within the state. At any one time, the number of licensed producers would have to be at least three and not more than 10. Producers would have to pay a nonrefundable application fee of at least $25,000 for a producer license, and licenses would have to be renewed at least every five years. Producers would have to demonstrate that they could grow pharmaceutical-grade marijuana in a secure indoor facility and also have the ability to prevent diversion or theft of the marijuana they grow.
Q. Would patients be permitted to grow their own marijuana?
Q. Would patients be able to use medical marijuana anywhere?
A. No. The law would prohibit ingesting marijuana in a bus, a school bus or any moving vehicle; in the workplace; on any school grounds or any public or private school, dormitory, college or university property; in any public place; or in the presence of anyone under 18. It also would prohibit any use of palliative marijuana that endangers the health or well-being of another person, other than the patient or primary caregiver.
Q. How much marijuana could a patient have on hand?
A. No more than a one-month supply.
Q. Could a landlord refuse to rent to someone or take action against a tenant because the tenant uses medical marijuana?
Q. Could a school refuse to enroll someone because the person qualifies to use medical marijuana?
Q. Could an employer decide not to hire someone or decide to fire that person because the person uses medical marijuana?
Q. What are the main arguments against the bill?
A. The Connecticut Medical Society contends that more research is needed to adequately determine how well medical marijuana works. It also cites concerns about quality control and standardization, as well as contamination with pesticides and microbes, and argues that patients cannot be assured a reliable and reproducible dose. U.S. Attorney David Fein says the state law would authorize conduct contrary to federal law and undermine the federal government's efforts to regulate the possession, manufacture and trafficking of controlled substances. Fein said theU.S. Justice Department would not focus on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana, but that it would pursue growing facilities and dispensaries that would be violating federal law. The legislation's opponents also say that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that legalizing its use would send the wrong message to young people.
Q. Is this the first time Connecticut legislators have tried to pass a medical marijuana bill?
A. No. Lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill in 2007, but Gov.M. Jodi Rell vetoed it. Last year, Gov.Dannel P. Malloy backed a medical marijuana bill that would have allowed qualifying patients to grow their own marijuana for medicinal use but it failed to become law, although lawmakers did approve the decriminalization of a small amount of marijuana.
Q. Where does the proposed law stand at this point?
A. Late last Wednesday the House approved the measure 91-56. It still awaits action in the Senate. If Gov.Dannel P. Malloy then signs the bill, it would take effect Oct. 1, 2012. Provisions on registering patients, caregivers, pharmacies and producers and on establishing a Board of Physicians would take effect immediately.
Conn. committee passes medical marijuana bill
Click on Magazine to see December 2011 Issue!!!!
Botanist compiling ‘genetic fingerprint’of marijuana to establish database to track the drug
By Amanda Pinto
New Haven Register middletownpress.com
We should find ALL the idiots behind this...round them up, send them out of the country. GO FIND SOMETHING BETTER TO DO. Go find a murderer, or a rapist, or a wall street executive.....-UA
Soon, they will be able to do the same with marijuana evidence. An online listing of marijuana seizures will help police determine the drug’s path from overseas growth to local street crime.
University of New Haven professor and forensic botanist Heather Miller Coyle has for three years taken the “genetic fingerprint” from various strains of marijuana. That evidence is now being compiled in a national marijuana database that will allow law enforcement to track specific strands of the drug.
Coyle, an associate professor at UNH’s Henry C Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, with her team conducts her work in an objective setting, so she isn’t privy to what exactly law enforcement agencies are doing with her findings. However, she’s “quite sure (they are) using it for investigative leads,” she said.
“It basically connects (the drugs) in space and time by the genetics, so we can get an idea from (the sample) of whether it came from a cartel in Mexico, or if it came from Europe, or if it was from inside the United States,” she said.
Officials from the National Parks Service and the national Bureau of Land Management are particularly interested in the work because they are interested in tracking and eliminating marijuana grown in wooded expanses of state and federal property, she said.
Coyle’s project has been funded with more than $100,000 from the National Marijuana Initiative and the National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, according to university officials.
Marijuana has long been analyzed to determine its makeup, but her work helps elevate the information police officials are able to extract for it.
“We’d like to see plants get a step up and be more like hair (evidence),” Coyle said.
Coyle developed a method of analysis that requires only the drug by smeared on an evidence card — a practice that prevents the university from having to store large quantities of marijuana, she said. From that smear, Coyle and the students she works with extract a portion of the plant’s DNA for analysis.
Recently, she and forensic science student Ashley Hertzman discussed a seized shipment of marijuana seeds a law enforcement agency recently sent for their work. Some of the seeds are labeled from known providers in Europe, where marijuana is legal, while other seeds are not.
The genetic properties of those seeds can be compared with the street-sold drugs, and all of that information compiled the database Hertzman is creating with the help of the university’s Institute for the Study of Violent Groups as part of her honors thesis.
The work, Coyle said, will allow law enforcement to use marijuana evidence to find breaches in national security through determining where the plant’s seeds entered the country.
Hertzman, who began her work with Coyle Friday, will be studying the “White Widow” strain of marijuana and using the database to track its distribution.
“I’m excited to get started and see what I can find out,” said Hertzman, a senior from Long Island, N.Y. “It’s definitely interesting. When I tell my family and friends what I’m doing, once they get past the shock of, ‘You’re looking at pot?’ they get excited about what the implications could be.”
New York Marijuana Bill May Stall; Connecticut To Decriminalize Pot Possession
Good thing its not up to the Lt. jr Governor!- UA
More than 30 years ago, New York state decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But one line in that 1977 law has led to the annual arrest of thousands of New Yorkers under the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk searches.
Having fewer than 25 grams of marijuana at home is not a criminal offense, but displaying or smoking the same substance out on the street (or in any public place) is. The police have used that fact as part of an aggressive, and critics say unconstitutional, campaign to deter crime by detaining large numbers of people in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
New York police arrested 50,377 people for misdemeanor possession of marijuana last year. Last month, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) introduced a bill in Albany to decriminalize public possession.
So far, Jeffries told HuffPost, the response has been encouraging, but time is running out before the end of the session on June 20.
"If we are able to advance it out of committee, it has a shot of passing in the Assembly," he said.
Gabriel Sayegh, the director of state organizing for the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the bill, said he was not optimistic the measure would become law this year. But he added that the proposal has sparked "quite the conversation" in the capital.
"In short, this is Albany, so this is going to be a very a difficult fight. It's not going to pass without a major, major push," Sayegh said.
Both Sayegh and Jeffries pointed to one sign of hope for advocates of further decriminalization: Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, have yet to take a public position on the decriminalization push.
Across the border in Connecticut, a bill to decriminalize pot possession in general passed in the Senate on Sunday and the House on Tuesday.
When Gov. Dan Malloy (D) signs the measure into law, as he has promised to do, a first-time violation for possessing less than a half ounce of pot will carry a $150 fine. Possession of less than four ounces can currently be punished with a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
Connecticut would become the 14th state to decriminalize some amount of marijuana.
Michael Lawlor, Governor Malloy's undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, told HuffPost the bill was intended to "free up a lot of resources in the criminal justice system to focus on more serious and violent offenses."
Instead of sending suspects to be booked and enter the criminal justice system, they will receive a fine, and in Lawlor's experience as a criminal justice professor, "swift and certain punishment is more effective than potential severity of punishment."
Another bill in Connecticut, to legalize medical marijuana, faces a more uncertain future. Lawlor sees "strong bipartisan support" in his state, but is also concerned about a filibuster threat in the Senate.
"If we could get it debated, it would certainly pass," Lawlor said. Another such bill passed in 2007 but was vetoed by then-Governor M. Jodi Rell.
State Sen. Toni Boucher (R) opposes both the decriminalization of marijuana and the current version of the medical marijuana bill. She has gone so far as to claim that Malloy supports the legislation out of a personal interest, according to an interview with the Stonington Patch:
“Malloy is promoting this bill," she said. "One of his sons has had serious problems with drugs. [The governor] has a personal interest in this."
Boucher was referring to Benjamin Malloy's arrests for dealing marijuana and robbing a man with marijuana at gunpoint. Governor Malloy declined to comment to Patch.
Local State Senators Vote Against Marijuana Bill
Legislation narrowly approved over the weekend would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot.
By Michael Hayes| 6/6/11 meridian.patch.com
What can you count on from CT? -UA
Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman was the deciding vote after the Senate voted 18-18 on Saturday to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Wyman supported the legislation, sending it to the House for final legislative action. Four Democrats joined 14 Republicans in opposing the bill (click here for votes).
Republican state Senators Len Suzio, (representing Meriden, Middlefield, parts of Middletown and Cheshire), Joe Markley (Cheshire, Southington, Wolcott and Waterbury) and Len Fasano (Wallingford, North Haven and East Haven) were joined by Democratic state Sen. Edward Meyer, (Durham and Killingworth) in voting against the legislation.
In opposing the bill, Sen. Meyer recalled the personal story of two relatives – not his children, both with mental health issues – whose lives have been negatively affected by their chronic use of marijuana.
“Some drugs are illicit because of three factors. First, because they are highly toxic, secondly because they cause anti-social conduct, and third, because they result in high health costs. Marijuana fits into that category very well,” Meyer told Senate members. “While we are taking only a small step with this bill today, we are taking one that is very controversial. The toxic effects of pot, on balance, suggest to me that we must reject this bill.”
The bill would reduce possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana from a class C misdemeanor to a violation, punishable by a $150 fine for a first offense, and $200 to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Individuals under 21 years-old would have their driver’s license suspended for 60 days, in keeping with existing penalties for underage drinking. Anyone with three or more offenses would additionally be referred for participation in a drug education program at their own expense.
Current law allows up to one year in prison and a fine of as much as $1,000 for possession of any amount less than four ounces of marijuana for a first offense. Subsequent offenses under current law are subject to up to five years in prison and as much as a $3,000 fine.