On May 31, 2012, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed off on Public Act 12-55 – Connecticut’s medical marijuana law. The legislative process that led to the passage of that law, the subsequent adoption of more than 70 pages of regulations, and steps being taken to implement P.A. 12-55 were the subjects of the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal’s fall 2013 symposium, “The Palliative Use of Marijuana: Demystifying Connecticut’s Policy Concerning Medical Marijuana,” held before a packed house in the Starr Hall Reading Room on October 25.
“[Public Act 12-55] is a remarkably thorough bill…a bill that is [unlikely] to have unintended consequences.
It was very thoroughly thought through.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Cornelius O’ Leary ’82
Opening up the symposium was Commissioner William M. Rubenstein of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, the agency charged with overseeing the state’s medical marijuana program. In his remarks, Rubenstein emphasized that, despite being jokingly referred to as Connecticut’s “Pot Tsar,” the issues surrounding medical marijuana are both important and serious. “It does a disservice to get caught up in the cultural bias that a medical marijuana program is a subterfuge for a gateway to recreational use,” said Rubenstein, who noted that the Connecticut Legislature’s recognition of marijuana as a legitimate pharmaceutical dates back to 1981. “The winks and jokes do a disservice to the seriously ill and trivialize their medical conditions.”
Following Rubenstein’s presentation were two panel discussions featuring lawmakers, physicians and attorneys, including UConn Law graduates Robert W. Clark ’97, special counsel to the Connecticut Attorney General; State Senator Paul R. Doyle ’90; Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane ’68; and Diane Whitney ’85, partner and chair of the Environmental Law Department at Pullman & Comley LLC. Former State Senate Majority Leader Con O’Leary ’82, who supervises the Law School’s Legislative Clerkship Clinic, moderated the panel that discussed the process of passing and implementing P.A. 12-55. Carl Schiesel, III ’84, the director of regulatory advocacy for the Connecticut Hospital Association, served as the moderator of the panel entitled, “Navigating Through a Highly Controversial Regime.”
The symposium concluded with remarks by keynote speaker Mark A.R. Kleiman, professor of public policy at UCLA, and co-author of Marijuana Legislation: What Everyone Needs to Know. While Kleiman emphasized that the medical benefits of marijuana are “no longer subject to serious debate,” he expressed significant concerns about legalizing marijuana for non-medical use, particularly with regard to “such policy details” as pricing/taxation, regulation, marketing, and product testing and labeling. “When we create a legal cannabis industry…the commercial interests of the participants in that industry will be flatly contrary to the public interest,” he warned. “I don’t see a good way out of that.”