Though the debate about the use of medical marijuana continues in many states and in Washington, DC, close to half of states—including Connecticut—have legalized the use of cannabis and its cannabinoids for treating a variety of medical conditions.

Use of medical marijuana must be approved by a Connecticut-licensed physician or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), who must write a prescription that can be filled only at a licensed dispensary using products produced locally by a handful of state-approved growers.

To qualify, a patient must be diagnosed with one of the following debilitating medical conditions specifically identified in the law, including: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, certain types of damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Other approved medicinal uses include:

  • Sickle cell disease
  • Post laminectomy syndrome with chronic radiculopathy
  • Severe psoriasis and psoriatic Arthritis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Complex regional pain syndrome

The laws regarding medical marijuana are constantly changing, as a board of physicians and legislators reflect on patient needs, other available drugs and therapies, and new research.

The following additional medical conditions are now covered for patients over 18 (excluding inmates confined in a correctional institution or facility under the Department of Correction, regardless of their medical condition), although patients under 18 also qualify, with certain restrictions and requirements:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Terminal illness requiring end-of-life care
  • Uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder

Application Process

The first step is to make an appointment with the physician treating you for the debilitating condition for which you seek to use medical marijuana.

You will not be able to register in the system until the department receives a certification from your physician or APRN that you have been diagnosed with a condition that qualifies for the use of medical marijuana and that the potential benefits would likely outweigh the health risks.

Patients with a prescription for medical marijuana must complete an application with the state Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees this program in Connecticut.

The process involves providing:

  • Proof the patient lives in Connecticut
  • An updated photograph
  • Certifications that have to be completed online or in writing
  • Payment of a program fee

Medical marijuana in Connecticut is not a covered health insurance benefit.

Qualifying patient applications take between two and three weeks to process.

Upon approval of the application, you will be mailed a temporary certificate, valid for 30 days from the approval date of the application. The temporary certificate will allow you to use your selected dispensary while your permanent certificate is being mailed.

You must visit your selected dispensary in advance of filling your prescription as part of the screening process.

Once approved, you can fill your prescription by accessing medical marijuana in a variety of forms and strengths, including marijuana for smoking versus ingesting. Prescriptions also cover the use of liquids, lozenges, edibles, and other forms.

Although medical marijuana has been legalized, the law prohibits smoking or ingesting it:

  • In a bus or any moving vehicle
  • In the workplace
  • On any school grounds (public or private), dormitory, or college or university property
  • In any public place
  • In the presence of anyone under 18

It also prohibits any use of palliative marijuana that endangers the health or well-being of another person other than the patient or primary caregiver.

Finally, not every physician or APRN may be willing to write a prescription for medical marijuana, despite legalization. The Department of Consumer Protection does not require physicians or hospitals to recognize marijuana as an appropriate medical treatment in general or for any specific patient.