The Connecticut Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana bill early Saturday morning, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) said in a statement later that same day that he will sign it. The bill, House Bill 5389, passed the House last week.
Medical marijuana is already legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
The middle-of-the-night final vote came only after medical marijuana foe Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) filibustered for most of the 10 hours of debate. She fruitlessly introduced various amendments in a bid to derail it, but none of them passed.
Boucher mixed statistics and stories as she argued that marijuana isn't medicine, that illegal use among youth would expand, that licensed dispensaries are "little more than dope dealers with licenses," and that federal non-recognition of medical marijuana could expose anyone involved in it to civil or criminal liability. But hers was a decidedly minority view.
"We can probably find a study that will contradict every single study Senator Boucher has cited this evening," said Sen. Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield) co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The tightly crafted bill would allow patients with specified diseases and conditions to obtain a written certification from a physician allowing them to use medical marijuana. The marijuana would be grown indoors at one of no more than 10 licensed grows and sold at one of no more than 10 licensed dispensaries. It will be sold by specially trained pharmacists, who must be on staff at the dispensaries.
Gov. Malloy, whose office helped craft the law, said it was designed to avoid conflict with the federal government, which has been cracking down on medical marijuana distribution in states where it is more loosely regulated.
"We don't want Connecticut to follow the path pursued by some other states, which essentially would legalize marijuana for anyone willing to find the right doctor and get the right prescription. In my opinion, such efforts run counter to federal law. Under this proposal, however, the Department of Consumer Protection will be able to carefully regulate and monitor the medicinal use of this drug in order to avoid the problems encountered in some other states," he said in the Saturday statement.
"This legislation is about accomplishing one objective: providing relief to those with severe medical illnesses. I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk."
By Phillip Smith