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Panel rejects medical marijuana regulation

Published 11:34 am, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
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With no discussion, a key legislative committee Tuesday rejected a regulation that is necessary to start the state's medical marijuana industry.

The proposal before the committee would change the designation of marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug as part of an overall plan for secure, in-state cultivation and sales through licensed dispensaries.

Schedule I drugs are highly addictive with no medical uses. Schedule II drugs have medical benefits under the landmark federal drug act of 1970.

The commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, who is drawing up the rules for the growing and distribution of medical marijuana, said it's not a setback for the program.

Sen. Andres Ayala Jr., D-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the Regulations Review Committee, said the lightning-quick rejection, without prejudice, will give the committee more time to look at the medical marijuana regulations in their entirety.

"Members on the committee would like to see both sets of regs at the same time," Ayala said in an interview after the vote. A recent committee session included a lengthy discussion on the medical marijuana program.

"Folks on the committee still have issues," Ayala said. "Instead of piecemealing the regs, we would like to maybe see them in a package, so that we can look at how we are changing from Schedule I to Schedule II and then, obviously, the dispensing of it. We want to make sure we have our finger on how it's going to roll out in the state of Connecticut."

The issue is expected to return to the committee this summer. The state DCP this week is accepting testimony on the larger framework of the grow-and-distribution system in Connecticut, the 18th state to adopt medical marijuana.

William M. Rubenstein, commissioner of the state DCP, said in a Tuesday interview that getting the medical marijuana system in place by the end of the year is uncertain.

"I've said all along, getting it into dispensaries for sale by end of the year is technically doable, but very optimistic, assuming the regulations go forward," Rubenstein said.

"We would like to get our entire set of regs to go operational," Rubenstein said, noting that last year's legislation, signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, requires statutory changes sooner or later.

"We didn't see (Tuesday) as a negative," Rubenstein said. "The committee may still be performing their due diligence, checking on unintended consequences."

kdixon@ctpost.com; 860-549-4670; twitter.com/KenDixonCT; facebook.com/kendixonct.hearst; blog.ctnews.com/dixon