Marijuana is being legalized around the nation, in one form or another. While some states are beginning to legalize marijuana recreationally, Connecticut isn’t there quite yet. The state does, however, permit medical marijuana.
Since this status is supposed to reserve cannabis for legitimate medical use, there are some strict laws surrounding medical marijuana in Connecticut.
These laws can be confusing to laypeople. Understanding these laws will help legitimate users of medical marijuana avoid unnecessary legal trouble with their prescriptions.
The Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program
Q: Who Can Use Marijuana Legally in Connecticut?
To use marijuana legally in the state of Connecticut, you must meet certain qualifications. They include the following:
- Medical marijuana patients in the state must be at least 18 years old.
- They have to legally reside in Connecticut, and may not be in prison.
- They must also be diagnosed with one of a very short list of “debilitating” medical conditions explicitly outlined in Connecticut’s medical marijuana statute.
(Of these conditions, cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and glaucoma appear at the top. Adding new conditions to the list is a lengthy process that requires legal intervention.)
Q: How Can a Connecticut Resident Get a Medical Marijuana Prescription?
In order to get a medical marijuana prescription and permit, Connecticut residents must go through a certification process. This requires a diagnosis by a qualified physician, multiple forms, and receipt of a medical marijuana card.
A patient’s card needs to be renewed annually, and while this is better than keeping medical marijuana usage illegal, the process places many barriers to access for patients who may legitimately need it.
Medical Marijuana Laws in Connecticut
Q: What Happens If I’m Caught in Possession of Marijuana without a Permit?
Possessing marijuana in Connecticut without a permit is considered a serious crime at the moment. While there is a movement to decriminalize cannabis, these laws have not yet passed.
That leaves medical marijuana users in danger of arrest should they forget to carry their permit card. There are a variety of penalties marijuana users may face if convicted.
Q: What Kind of Penalties Will I Face if Convicted?
The lowest charge is having a small amount (half an ounce) of marijuana on hand for personal use. At this level, the crime is considered a civil penalty and can result in a fine of up to $500 for a second offense.
Misdemeanor Charges and Penalties
Having more than half an ounce, or 14 grams, is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and up to $2000 in fines.
Facing a Felony Conviction
The charges of distribution or cultivation of marijuana are much more serious. In fact, they are always felonies.
Having less than a kilogram (2.2 lbs) of marijuana can lead to charges of trafficking or cultivation, penalized by up to 7 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. That’s just for a first offense. A subsequent charge might lead to 15 years and $100,000 in fines.
Possessing more than a kilogram of cannabis without a medical marijuana card leads to mandatory minimums upon conviction.
A first offense requires a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison, with a max of 20 years. After that, any subsequent convictions require a mandatory minimum sentence of another decade behind bars.
These charges make possessing marijuana risky, even if you do have a medical marijuana card. It isn’t magic for you, and it doesn’t automatically make your loved ones or roommates safe from charges either.
Marijuana users can also face serious fines, penalties, and jail time if they fail to renew their cards on time. Still, if you are caught in any of these situations, you do have rights. Your first step should always be to find an experienced Connecticut drug crime attorney for guidance.
About the Author
Douglas D. Rudolph practices criminal defense law with two guiding principles in mind: that you are someone who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that you are innocent until proven guilty. Those are beliefs that have served him well so far in New Haven and across Connecticut, where he has built a reputation as someone who truly cares about his clients and will fight aggressively for them. His work has earned him a number of prestigious awards, including landing on The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 list two years in a row, and being named to the Top 10 Under 40 by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys in 2018.