Late Wednesday night, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill legalizing medical marijuana for the state. Gov. Dannel Malloy has said that if the bill clears the Sente, he will sign it.
The bill's 96-51 victory was not the first time medical marijuana has been approved by the Connecticut House; it has been brought up in the Connecticut legislature in eight of the last 10 years. In both 2004 and 2007, medical marijuana cleared the House of Representatives, but the bill had never made it past former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who was in office until January of 2011.
The bill, HB 5389, was Introduced by the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 29 of this year. It would establish a legal medical marijuana program run by the state of Connecticut, officially licensing producers and dispensaries. It would provide guidelines for doctor-qualified conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, HIV, cancer and glaucoma.
According to the Yale Daily News, opponents of medical marijuana in Connecticut say that legalization would violate federal law and that the bill's language is too liberal in its acceptance of "less severe" illnesses like chronic back pain.
United States Attorney for Connecticut David Fein had written a letter, presented at the House debate by Republican State Senators Michael Mclachlan and Toni Boucher, which warned against legalizing on a state level a federally-illegal substance. In it, Fein said HB 5389 undermines "the federal government's efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances", and that the U.S. Department of Justice could prosecute anyone working in the medical marijuana dispensaries.
Proponents of the law, like State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, say that they've learned from other states' endeavors and have written their bill to account for federal challenges.
"We put in restrictions that should protect any users or suppliers or dispensers from federal law," said Looney. "We believe we've crafted a law that protects individuals of Connecticut."
HB 5389 will now head to the Connecticut Senate, and may be debated as early as next week. With medical marijuana seeing past House and Senate success, current public approval and a nod from Governor Malloy, it would seem that Connecticut is well on its way to being the 17th state in the Union to legalize.
You can read the text of HB 5389 here (PDF).