Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program Sees Sharp Hike in Participation

Connecticut’s medical marijuana program has experienced steady growth since its inception in 2012, but it recently experienced a significant jump after the state expanded its number of qualifying medical conditions.

The state of Connecticut saw a 44 percent increase in registered medical marijuana patients since mid-December, the Hartford Business Journal reports. The number of registered patients was 11,392 as of June 26, compared to 7,655 on December 15.

Connecticut legalized medical marijuana in 2012 after Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 5389 into law. Currently, the program allows Connecticut residents at least 18 years of age to possess up to 1 month’s worth of uninterrupted medicinal cannabis supply.

The 4-year-old medical cannabis program has seen a significant surge as of late, as just a few years ago the number of patients was 2,000, according to Department of Consumer Protection Deputy Commissioner Michelle Seagull.

Its most recent growth spurt is likely due to the state expanding its list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions from 11 to 17 in February.

Seagull referred to the state’s medical marijuana program as a “model” for other states at a seminar hosted by the Connecticut Bar Association Annual Legal Conference in June.

Additionally, Seagull said the state’s program “enables truly sick patients to get help from palliative marijuana. But, there are lots of requirements, rules of the road that need to be abided by,” before patients are allowed legal access.

Patients seeking medicinal cannabis cannot be inmates and must not be under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. Additionally, qualifying patients must have valid registration certificates to avoid prosecution and the maximum allowable amount of cannabis per month is 2.5 ounces.

“We treat this for what it is intended to be,” Seagull added, “as medicine for diseases such as cancer and muscular dystrophy.”

The hike in registered patients in Connecticut is especially substantial considering the state doesn’t allow medical cannabis for chronic pain or anxiety. The originally-passed law approved medicinal cannabis for the treatment of cachexia, Crohn’s disease, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. In February, the state added amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome and recurring back pain after surgery. Additionally, the state’s Department of Consumer Protection will consider the approval of other medical conditions.

According to statistics provided by Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection, New Haven County is home to the greatest number of medical marijuana users with 2,754 registered patients. Hartford County has the second highest number, with 2,561, but Fairfield County is closely behind with 2,430 registered patients.

Currently, seven dispensaries throughout the state service registered patients. The state expanded the number of dispensaries from to nine in January, but two aren’t expected to open until later this summer.

Connecticut’s medical marijuana program may soon experience even further growth, as the state legislature recently passed a bill that allows children under the age of 18 legal access to medical marijuana in the forms of liquid or pill to treat severe epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, an irreversible spinal cord injury, and terminal illness. The new law takes effect on October 1.