Committee sets medical marijuana regulations

Hartford — The General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee approved medical marijuana regulations on Tuesday that regulate who produces, dispenses and purchases medical marijuana.

Shouting and cheers rose up from the audience as Sen. Andres Ayala, D - 23rd District, announced that the regulations were approved after a voice vote.

Tracey Gamer-Fanning of West Hartford who suffers from brain cancer and turned 43 today said this was the best birthday present ever.

“I am not a criminal; I have a card that says I am allowed to use medical marijuana and I have wanted people to understand what this meant,” Gamer-Fanning said.

She said she was a mom and had a career and never thought she would get brain cancer at age 36.

Gamer-Fanning said medical marijuana stops her from having desperate tremors, shaking seizures and unbearable amounts of pain, sadness and fear. She also said she doesn’t have to take medications such as Oxycodone and morphine, which caused her to vomit and kept her in bed away from her family.

Legislators on the committee discussed the latest version of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s regulations, which were more than 70 pages long, for about three hours on Tuesday. The regulations spell out the criteria for marijuana producers, dispensary facilities, physicians and patients.

Ledyard businessman David Kimmel, who is the president and founder of Vintage Foods Limited, said he has discussed applying for a license from the Department of Consumer Protection. He has not said where in Connecticut he might like to build the production facility. The production facility would have the responsibility of having an indoor facility to grow the marijuana, package, label and deliver the product to the dispensary facility.

He said he was interested in operating in this industry because it was highly regulated and it would be used for medical purposes, whereas on the West Coast it has been less regulated and there has been a blurring of the lines between medical and recreational use.

The regulations include requiring producers to put $2 million into an escrow account, letter of credit or surety bond made payable to the state if the commissioner of Consumer Protection deems necessary. This is in order to attract serious businesses to apply instead of businesses that are mildly interested in the marijuana production. The Department of Consumer Protection will issue at least three producer licenses, but no more than 10 licenses. Factors that affect who will be approved to be a producer include the location, whether the proximity of the proposed production facility will have a detrimental effect on any placed used for worship, school or charitable institution and whether it is considered detrimental to public interest.

The regulations also detail how the state will manage dispensaries or medical marijuana stores that will operate similar to pharmacies. In order for dispensary facilities to obtain a permit from the state they will have to provide information such as a detailed description of any other services the dispensary will be offering at the facility, plans on how it will maintain adequate control against theft, details of any felony conviction or criminal conviction related to controlled substances and permission for the department to conduct a background check.

Dispensary facilities will not be able to obtain marijuana from outside of the state. The dispensary may not cultivate, deliver or sell marijuana unless it purchases it from a Connecticut producer and sells it to a qualifying patient or primary caregiver.

Qualifying illnesses include cancer, glaucoma, positive HIV or AIDS status, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.

Several legislators brought up concerns about the state law and regulations coming into contrast with federal law, which has not legalized marijuana; Washington and Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana.

Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the department and Connecticut went above and beyond the regulations put into place by other states. Twenty other states have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana.

Fasano said that state employees were at risk along with the commissioner who would be signing off on licenses for producers and permits for dispensary facilities.

Robert Clark, attorney at the Office of the Attorney General, said there were no guarantees that employees or legislators wouldn’t be sued for legalizing medical marijuana. He said this was already known when the General Assembly passed the bill in 2012.

Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said residents should be comforted by the numerous regulations. The production and sale of medical marijuana is self-funded through a fee structure; the product fulfills its duty to patients and the regulations prevent abuse; and there are strict controls on advertising and how people become qualified patients.

Kimmel said with a smile after the vote, “Congratulations to the Department of Consumer Protection and the state for doing such an excellent job; they are the ones who made that happen.”

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