A small network of maybe half a dozen state-licensed growers supplying medical marijuana to designated pharmacies. Patients with doctors' prescriptions getting their pot at special, non-federally regulated pharmacy areas. Pain relief for the seriously ill combined with new jobs and state and local tax revenue.
That's generally the scheme now being cautiously talked about by Connecticut lawmakers, medical pot advocates and Gov. Dannel Malloy's law enforcement gurus.
They all say what they're shooting for is a Connecticut system designed to avoid the screwy crap that's triggered federal drug crackdowns in states like California and Oregon. The idea is to follow the lead of more sensible, conservative, and highly regulated medical marijuana programs developed in places like Colorado.
"We've learned," says Erik Williams, head of the Connecticut branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Keep it small, more localized."
"We have worked out a proposal," says Malloy's law enforcement aide, Michael Lawlor. "It would be taxable, regulated."
Unlike last year, Malloy's administration isn't going to propose its own medical pot bill in 2012, deciding instead to leave it up to the legislature. "But we would be supportive," Lawlor adds.
The governor didn't sound all that supportive last week when asked about a pro-medical pot demonstration that greeted his arrival at the State Capitol. Malloy told reporters he's going to reserve judgment until he sees what kind of a bill the legislature offers. As for the demonstrators, Malloy quipped: "None of them look sick."
What hasn't worked includes lax state regulation and enforcement, which lead to multiple federal raids of marijuana "dispensaries" that were providing far too many people with far too much dope.
Last year's medical pot bill in Connecticut focused on allowing patients with doctors' prescriptions to grow their own marijuana. Experts say that can be a tough proposition for a seriously ill person because of the need for special equipment and the difficulty of cultivation indoors.
The 2011 medical marijuana legislation was never brought up for a vote, in part because lawmakers decided to focus on approval of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot and because there was disagreement over the home-grown approach.
One key element of the new 2012 approach would be to leave a lot of the details of medical marijuana regulation up to the state Department of Consumer Protection.
Lawlor says the idea would be to allow the agency, with the help of medical and legal experts, to decide how much pot a medical patient should be allowed to legally possess or a grower to legally cultivate.
One proposal that might make this year's pot bill more attractive to some is the idea of giving cities and towns a piece of the pot tax action. The New York Times reported the state of Colorado collected more than $5 million in marijuana sales taxes in 2011, and that the city of Colorado Springs pulled in more than $700,000 in local sales taxes on medical grass.
"We'd like to see the legislature allow a local tax option for host communities," Williams says.
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