By Gregory B. Hladky
3:05 PM EST, January 22, 2013
If you want an idea of just how tight Connecticut's proposed medical pot regulations are, consider that the requirements for grow operations include "pocketless clothing for all production facility personnel working in an area containing marijuana."
The 74 pages of Connecticut's draft regulations may well be the tightest for any of the 16 states that have approved medical marijuana programs. And those proposed rules are going to get lots more scrutiny before they're approved.
State officials estimate it could take up to a year to get those regs through public hearings, approved by the legislature, and have the newly licensed medical pot companies get their operations up and running.
The detailed proposals cover not only pocketless clothing, but everything from the size of counters in marijuana dispensaries to security systems to making sure that all the pot sold is in clear, child-proof containers.
"I think they're excellent," Michael Lawlor, Gov. Dannel Malloy's top criminal justice adviser, says of the draft regs offered by the state Department of Consumer Protection. "They're very tight … and it's hard to imagine how there could be any abuses."
One of the goals the General Assembly had when it finally approved a medical marijuana bill last year was to make sure Connecticut didn't end up with some wild-and-woolly, loosey-goosey system like California has. That state's storefront pot dispensaries have become notorious. Federal agents have repeatedly raided California dispenseries for acting as fronts for dope cartels and selling pot indiscriminately.
Since the new law took effect here in October, about 270 people have registered to become medical marijuana patients. Only people with debilitating diseases (11 are specified in the law) like AIDS or multiple sclerosis or cancer will be able to get a doctor's recommendation that will allow them to buy medical marijuana.
Erik Williams is executive director of Connecticut NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and even he likes the proposed regulations.
"I'm very pleased with the draft rules … from what I see at this point," says Williams. "Consumer Protection has put in the time and done the research necessary to create the best regulatory model in the U.S."
Williams has also just become president of the newly formed "Connecticut Medical Cannabis Business Alliance" and has joined the Colorado-based medical pot-growing company Gaia Plant-Based Medicine.
Gaia is only one of a slew of companies that are drooling at the prospect of getting into what's expected to be Connecticut's multi-million-dollar medical marijuana market.
The new regulations call for licensing at least three growing facilities and a yet-to-be-determined number of dispensing facilities, which will be located in or connected to existing pharmacies.
If you're thinking of getting in as a Connecticut pot grower, you're going to need some heavy cash. The proposed rules call for a wannabe-marijuana producer to put up $25,000 just to apply, pay a $75,000 fee to get licensed, and establish a $2 million escrow account to cover the possibility that something goes wrong with your facility or you violate the regulations somehow.
A dispensary permit application would cost you $1,000, and another $5,000 prior to actually getting a permit. And a licensed dispensary is the only place a registered pot patient will be able to buy marijuana.
Estimates of how much it would cost to create the sort of secure, state-of-the-art grow facility Connecticut will require start at a minimum of $1.5 million.
Once you get licensed and create the facility, the draft regs would allow you to produce baked goods like pot brownies; tinctures or oils; capsules and pills; topical oils or lotions; transdermal patches; and cigarettes or raw marijuana leaves or buds. A registered patient would be able to keep up to a month's supply of pot at home.
Any of those products would have to be tested in a lab and labeled, and the list of what has to be on those labels is a long one. It includes a unique serial number (for tracking purposes); a brand name (no "obscene or indecent" designs, dudes); date of testing; exact quantity; profile of all ingredients (such as THC, aka tetrahydrocannabinol); and an expiration date.
For health freaks, none of this pot can be called "organic" unless all the plants have been organically grown as stipulated in Connecticut laws and standards.
Just the minimum requirements for security alarm systems for pot facilities go on for nearly two pages.
In case you're wondering, no one with any felony convictions on their record is going to be allowed to work in any of these state-licensed operations.
Despite the strictness of the draft regulations, Williams says he believes "a lot of things in them are very, very fair."
Lawlor says he believes the estimates that a functional medical marijuana growing-and-dispensing system could be on line by late this year or early 2014 are realistic.
So far, Lawlor says, he's had "no complaints from anyone on this whole thing."
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