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State Officials Prepare To Tackle Medical Marijuana’s Legal Hurdles

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 20, 2013 4:07pm
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Hugh McQuaid File Photo

Consumer Protection Commissioner Bill Rubenstein

The Consumer Protection Department has amended its proposed regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program following a report last week from legislative attorneys recommending that the General Assembly reject the document without prejudice.

The lawyers for the Legislative Commissioners Office cited 13 problematic lines in the department’s proposed regulations implementing the program. For the most part, they said the language was written too broadly. The attorneys also suggested technical revisions to the language in more than 100 other areas.

On Monday, the department provided the committee with substitute pages to the regulations, aimed at tailoring the language. Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said he believes the new pages address all the concerns outlined in the report.

“Given the length and breadth of the regulations, we thought the concerns were minimal and easy to address,” he said Tuesday.

The Regulations Review Committee is scheduled to meet on Aug. 27 to review the regulations. Rubenstein said he hopes they approve them. It’s unclear if the 14-member panel split evenly between Democrats and Republicans will vote on the regulations or postpone it for another month.

The committee has thrice delayed taking action on a portion of the regulations that would change the classification of marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug. March was the first time it postponed taking action on that recommendation. Since then, the department has held a hearing for public feedback and revised the document.

When they postponed voting on the classification, several of the committee’s members questioned the legality of the state’s medical marijuana program given that the substance is still considered a Schedule I drug under federal law.

“I’m still not convinced we are federally pre-empted,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, has said.

The Legislative Commissioner’s Office report urging rejection of the department’s proposed regulations did not speak directly to the legality of the regulations under federal law.

However, a June memo from Attorney General George Jepsen’s office said they were not sure there was a conflict. The memo noted that the law was more likely to pose a conflict than the department’s regulations called for under the law.

“. . . although the issue is not free from dispute, we cannot conclude that the proposed regulations conflict with federal law . . . To the extent that the proposed regulations conflict with or are pre-empted by federal law, that conflict or pre-emption is not created by the proposed regulations themselves but by the legislature’s enactment of the act,” the June memo reads.

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