Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Connecticut this spring, businessmen have been working to develop the drug’s industry from scratch.
About a dozen interested parties met last week at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to discuss the proposed Connecticut Medical Cannabis Business Alliance, which is a coalition of those interested in growing and selling medical cannabis. The group aims to uphold appropriate practices and standards related to the drug, as well as educate patients, doctors and future businessmen about its use.
“There is a considerable lack of education out there regarding cannabis,” said Eileen Konieczny, a registered nurse in Stamford. “People are still very afraid of it just from the social stigmas that are there, but when used properly, it’s one of the safest medicines that are out there.”
Tracey Gamer-Fanning, a six-year brain cancer survivor, said she strongly agrees with this sentiment after experiencing the benefits of medical marijuana firsthand as a prescription for her brain cancer. Gamer-Fanning attended the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Business Alliance meeting because she wanted to explain to those who may be involved in the medical cannabis industry how this treatment affects patients.
Using medical marijuana, she said, was like turning on a “light switch” in her life, dramatically reducing the amount of time she was in pain and improving her quality of life.
In Connecticut, medical cannabis may be prescribed in cases of serious illness such as AIDS and cancer. Use of the drug does not require smoking, which is harmful to lungs, Konieczy said. It can be utilized instead through edibles, capsules and topical applications, she explained, adding that the side effects of medical marijuana are euphoria, red eyes, dry mouth and a desire to eat more food, which are less harmful than the side effects of other drugs like opiates.
It is common for trade associations like the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Business Alliance to form and discuss a common interest, said William Rubenstein, the state Department of Consumer Protection commissioner. But he cautioned that the process of regulating medical cannabis in Connecticut is far from complete.
The Department of Consumer Protection is obligated to present regulations to the state legislature by July 1, 2013, but Rubenstein said the earliest companies will be able to apply for licenses to sell cannabis is the end of 2013. The department has already created temporary regulations that specify that there will be between three and 10 licensed marijuana producers in Connecticut and that growers must create a secure indoor facility, precautions that Rubenstein said are normal. The Department of Consumer Protection has been instructed to treat medical marijuana the same as other controlled pharmaceuticals, he added.
While there were only a dozen people at the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Business Alliance meeting, Rubenstein said the state has received a “number of phone calls” from people interested in pursuing the business of growing and selling medical cannabis.
There are currently 65 people registered to use medical marijuana in Connecticut.