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Conn. agency responds to pot regulation concerns

HARTFORD — State officials said Tuesday they have addressed concerns about the broadness of proposed regulations for Connecticut’s new medical marijuana program, adding limitations on background checks for patient caregivers and clarifying there will be no more than 10 marijuana producers in the state, among other changes.

The Department of Consumer Protection released its revised regulations after attorneys who advise the General Assembly recommended they be rejected. The agency said it is confident the biggest concerns have been addressed and a special legislative committee can proceed next week with a vote.

“Given the length and complexity of the proposed regulations, the department is gratified to see that the concerns noted were of such a limited scope,” the agency said in a statement.

In a report obtained by The Associated Press, the legislative attorneys had recommended lawmakers on the Regulation Review Committee essentially send the regulations back to the agency for revisions. The 14-member panel, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, is scheduled to meet Aug. 27.

The panel typically abides by recommendations for rejection, said committee co-chairman Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury.

It’s unclear whether the new changes will be enough to persuade lawmakers to adopt the regulations. Some committee members have their own concerns. Half voted against the 2012 legislation that created the overall medical marijuana program.

Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said he remains concerned it would run afoul of federal drug laws.

“I don’t believe that the state should be creating an industry for the cultivation of marijuana and regulating that industry in violation of federal law,” Candelora said.

In a letter last year to state lawmakers, then-U.S. Attorney David Fein said the bill creating Connecticut’s medical marijuana program would “authorize conduct contrary to federal law and undermine the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing and trafficking of controlled substances.” He warned that the Department of Justice could consider civil and criminal remedies against those who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries.

Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, who voted against the original legislation, said he’s concerned state employees who regulate the industry could face potential arrest.

But a June memorandum from the state attorney general’s office said courts in other states that have enacted similar medical marijuana laws have disagreed over whether such laws conflict with federal law.

Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who voted in favor of the medical marijuana bill, said President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that prosecuting those involved with medical marijuana is not its top priority.

“We passed a law. It was signed by the governor. We now have to put regulations forward for this program to go forward,” he said. “I think the opponents of the bill are kind of making a mountain out of a molehill by kind of re-debating the debate.”



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