Courtesy of the state database

HARTFORD, CT — There will be nine new dispensaries in New Haven, Westport, Stamford, Torrington, Meriden, Groton, Newington, Mansfield, and Windham to serve the state’s growing medical marijuana program.

The new facilities will join the nine others already in operation, according to the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP).

The Medical Marijuana Program in Connecticut has grown significantly since the last time new facility licenses were awarded in January 2016. At that time, there were 8,228 patients benefiting from the program. Today, there are 30,448.

“This program has been thoughtfully expanded since the bill was signed in 2012, and medication became available to patients in 2014,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said.

“Originally, there were only 11 conditions that would qualify adults for medication, and there were very few patients,” Seagull said. “Today, there are 31 conditions for adults, eight for patients under 18, and over 1,000 certifying practitioners. This medication has improved the quality of life for tens of thousands of patients. We look forward to working with our partners as the program continues to expand.”

The nine new dispensary facilities were chosen through a competitive process from 73 applications received by the DCP in response to the Request for Applications (RFA).

Currently, there are two medical marijuana dispensaries in Milford, and one each in Bristol, Waterbury, Branford, South Windsor, Hartford, Bethel, and Uncasville.

State representatives from Groton praised the DCP for approving a dispensary in Groton.

“Of the current nine facilities open, eight take about an hour or more to get to from Groton — leaving one facility to serve the entirety of Southeastern Connecticut,” Rep. Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, said.

DCP officials said that as the medical marijuana program grows there needed to be a concerted effort to open dispensaries in more locations around the state.

The most recent statistics show that there are 7,344 medical marijuana patients in Hartford County; 7,061 in New Haven County; 6,510 in Fairfield County; 3,353 in New London County; 1,919 in Litchfield County; 1,832 in Middlesex County; 1,425 in Tolland County; and 1,027 in Windham County.

There are also four licensed producers in the state.

The selected dispensary facilities will receive their licenses upon payment of their license fee and submission of final documentation, which must occur within 14 days. After that, facilities will begin construction and will open as they become ready to serve patients.

While the medical marijuana program has continued to grow since its birth, the move to legalize recreational cannabis in the state has stalled — at least so far.

Advocates believe 2019 might be the best chance, yet, to legalize recreational use and the issue is expected to be one of the big talking points when the General Assembly opens in January.

In 2018, six bills related to legalizing and regulating cannabis in Connecticut were introduced and four hearings were held on the issue.  A bill that would have begun planning for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut was sent to the House after narrowly passing the Appropriations Committee by a 27-24 vote.

Between the new leadership in the governor’s office, progress made in 2018, and opening of Massachusetts’ adult-use market, advocates are hopeful that 2019 could be the year Connecticut replaces marijuana prohibition with regulation.

Connecticut voters have supported the measure.

An October 2017 Sacred Heart University poll found that 71 percent of Connecticut residents “strongly support” or “somewhat support” legalizing and taxing marijuana, in the context of the state’s budget crisis.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated last year that Connecticut could bring in $45.4 million to $104.6 million a year if it legalizes marijuana in the same way it’s been done in Massachusetts or Colorado.