After seeing the number of patients in the program nearly double, Connecticut plans to build three new medical marijuana dispensaries.
Currently, the state has six dispensary facilities and four producers, where marijuana plants are grown. After a certain point in production the producers distribute the cannabis to the dispensaries, which then transfer the product to registered patients or caregivers.
Since September 2014, the number of patients registered for the medical marijuana program has increased from 1,683 to 4,097 this month.
“Connecticut was the first state to adopt a true pharmaceutical model for its medical marijuana program; as a result, Connecticut patients are able to purchase safe, pharmaceutical-grade products from pharmacists at licensed dispensary facilities in this state,” Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said in a press release. “As public awareness about the safety and quality of Connecticut-grown medical marijuana increases, we are seeing steady growth in physician and patient acceptance of the program.”
The Department of Consumer Protection disclosed Thursday that applications for additional dispensaries to serve the state are now open, a process which will conclude by mid-September. The department also said that, depending on the success of the additional dispensaries, more licenses may be awarded to additional facilities in the future.
The department noted a particular need in New Haven and Fairfield counties, which have 1,113 and 981 registered patients respectively.
At 868 registered patients, Hartford county has the third-highest number of program participants, followed by New London county with 357 and Litchfield county with 272.
The counties with the lowest number of medical marijuana card holders are Middlesex with 214, Tolland with 147, and Windham with 145.
The state’s six existing dispensaries are located in Hartford, Branford, Bethel, South Windsor, Uncasville, and Bristol. Production sites are located in West Haven, Portland, Simsbury, and Watertown.
In order to apply for a dispensary license, companies must provide their business information, location and site plan, proposed business and marketing plan, financial statements and organizational structure. The department will then score the applicants on each of these categories.
In order to be considered for a license, proposals must achieve a minimum score of 1,500.
To qualify for Connecticut’s Medical Marijuana Program, residents must be at least 18 years of age and have any one of the 11 “debilitating medical conditions” the program lists as qualifiers. Among others, these conditions include cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD.
While licensed physicians in Connecticut have only been allowed to prescribe medical marijuana since 2012, Connecticut remains one of the first states in the nation to have approved the drug’s medicinal use. In 1981, the state passed a law allowing doctors to prescribe the substance to treat glaucoma and the side effects of chemotherapy.
As of May 2015, the department was working on adopting regulations to add sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, post-laminectomy syndrome radiculopathy (or recurring back pain after surgery), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or Lou Gherig’s Disease), Fabry Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis to the list of qualifying conditions.
The additional conditions were recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians. The regulation review hearings, which preclude the final vote by the General Assembly’s Regulation Review Committee, are not yet scheduled.