This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. We are now approaching the top of our list. The remaining states all have legalized medical marijuana. The criminal penalties in the remaining states range from bad to good, but many have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The last few weeks we have covered states in the Northeast and that trend continues with state number 12: Connecticut.
Our previous rankings are as follows: 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah; 31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota.
Criminal Penalties. Connecticut does not impose criminal penalties for possessing less than a half an ounce of cannabis. The fine for the first possession offense of less than half an ounce of cannabis is $150 and $200-500 for any subsequent offenses. Possession of between a half an ounce and four ounces can get you up to a maximum 1-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent convictions for this amount can earn a maximum 5-year prison sentence and a $3,000 fine. Connecticut punishes the possession of over 4 ounces of cannabis with a maximum 5-year jail sentence and a maximum fine of $2,000. A second offense warrants a maximum 10-year jail sentence and fine up to $5,000.
The sale and distribution of cannabis is punished based on the amount and number of prior offenses, as follows:
- Less than 1 kilogram of marijuana earns up to 7 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000. Subsequent offenses earn up to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100,000. Connecticut courts may impose an alternative sentence for distribution crimes of less than 1 kilogram where the maximum jail sentence is reduced to three years. In these cases, the convicted person’s release is subject to conditions including post-release supervision.
- Over 1 kilogram of cannabis earns between 5-20 years imprisonment and 10-25 years of imprisonment for any subsequent offenses. The courts have discretion to alter mandatory minimums if the cannabis offender is under 18 or is mentally impaired.
Medical Marijuana. In 2012 Connecticut passed HB 5389, legalizing the medical use of cannabis. Qualifying patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis each month. A Connecticut-licensed physician may recommend cannabis for one of the following debilitating medical conditions:
- HIV or AIDS
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- Wasting Syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Post Laminectomy Syndrome with Chronic Radiculopathy
- Severe Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Terminal Illness Requiring End-Of-Life Care
- Uncontrolled Intractable Seizure Disorder
The Department of Consumer Protection oversees Connecticut’s medical cannabis program and it has established a Board of Physicians who may recommend additional conditions.
Patients must be over the age of 18 and residents of Connecticut to qualify to use medical cannabis. However, a new law allows minors suffering from Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, spinal court injuries, severe epilepsy or other seizure disorder, or terminal illness to use non-smokeable marijuana after obtaining permission from two doctors.
Only producers licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection may legally cultivate cannabis. The Middletown Press reports that Connecticut so far has eight operational cannabis dispensary facilities with one more set to open soon. These eight dispensaries provide cannabis for roughly 13,440 medical marijuana patients.
Recreational cannabis. In 2016, Connecticut state representatives introduced a bill regulating the sale and use of recreational cannabis. The bill was not accepted during the 2016 legislative session. The lead sponsor of the bill, Representative Juan Candelaria, expressed concern over the legislature’s failure to uphold the will of Connecticut’s voters (who in most surveys show as favoring the full legalization of cannabis).
Bottomline. Connecticut has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, enacted and expanded its medical marijuana program, and has lawmakers who openly support legalizing cannabis for recreational use. For those reasons, Connecticut lands near the top of our list at number 12.