The number of patients in the state of Connecticut receiving medical marijuana treatment keeps growing, now at 13,440, according to Department of Consumer Protection Deputy Commissioner Michelle Seagull.
Connecticut legalized medical marijuana for adults in 2012. There are eight operating dispensaries in the state and a ninth, located in Milford, slated to open shortly.
The demand has been so great that one of those dispensaries, Bluepoint Wellness in Branford, recently received permission from a local zoning commission to move into a much bigger space across the street from its current location on East Main Street.
“The program has simply gotten more acceptance,” explained Seagull, “both from the public and from physicians.”
Seagull said at the same time last year there were 7,000 patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program — half the total who are currently being served.
Additionally, she said, “at this time last year, we had 360 participating physicians. Now, that number is up to 536.”
In the past legislative session, a bill became law giving children under the age of 18 access to non-smokeable medical marijuana.
The new law, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, gives minors with severe epilepsy and terminal illnesses access to marijuana after the approval of two doctors.
The new law, Seagull said though, won’t significantly impact the growing number of medical marijuana patients. That’s because, she said, “there are many, many restrictive conditions that will limit the number of young people who have access to the program.”
“That’s by design,” added Seagull.
Seagull, in talking about the state’s medical marijuana program in the past, has said Connecticut’s law “enables truly sick patients to get help from palliative marijuana. But, there are lots of requirements, rules of the road that need to be abided by,” before marijuana can be prescribed for patients, she said.
“We treat this for what it is intended to be, as medicine for diseases such as cancer or Muscular Dystrophy,” she said. “You can’t have marijuana prescribed for things like anxiety or pain.”
April Arrasate, founder and chief operating officer of Curaleaf, one of four licensed producers of medical cannabis in the state of Connecticut, has said Connecticut’s medical marijuana requirements are the “toughest in the nation.”
Physicians may certify that a particular patient has been diagnosed with a disease that makes the patient eligible for the palliative use of marijuana and, based on a medically reasonable assessment of the patient’s medical history and medical condition, the potential benefits to the patient from the palliative use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks.
Additionally, the maximum allowable monthly amount is 2.5 ounces unless a physician indicates a lesser amount is appropriate.
In Branford, Nick Tamorrino, founder and manager of Bluepoint Wellness, recently told town zoners that he plans to use the additional space at a former bank site across the street from its current home to have separate treatment locations for children and adults.
The Branford Planning and Zoning Commission, at its Sept. 15 meeting, unanimously granted approval to Bluepoint’s move to the bigger location.
Branford Town Planner Harry Smith told zoners there have been no problems or complaints about the medical marijuana business since it opened for business two years ago.
Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove has repeatedly said that Bluepoint has been a good business for the town.
“The state guidelines are very stringent as far as security is concerned,” Cosgrove said. “These places are highly, highly regulated. Frankly I heard some concerns about this when the place first came to Branford. But I haven’t heard a single word since it’s been open.”
Children who quality for medical marijuana treatment must suffer a terminal illness requiring end-of-life care; or cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, severe epilepsy, or uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder; or an irreversible spinal cord injury with certain neurological conditions.
To qualify, a person under 18 needs permission from a parent or guardian and two physicians. The form of the marijuana they would be given would not be smoked vaporized or inhaled.