HARTFORD, Conn. — The Connecticut House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to legalize the medical use of marijuana, despite concerns raised by some lawmakers that those who manufacture and distribute the drug under the new state program could risk federal prosecution.
The bill passed 96-51 following about seven hours of debate. It now moves to the Senate for further action. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he supports the concept.
Legislators who opposed the bill distributed copies of a letter sent this week to two state senators from U.S. Attorney David Fein of Connecticut. He wrote that if the state decides to legalize medical marijuana, the Department of Justice won’t go after the seriously ill patients who use the illegal drug but it will enforce federal drug laws against those who manufacture and distribute it.
“House Bill 5389 will create a licensing scheme that appears to permit large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution, which would authorize conduct contrary to federal law and undermine the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances,” Fein wrote.
He said federal authorities could consider “civil and criminal legal remedies” against those individuals who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries because they’d be doing so in violation of federal law, despite the state legislation. Fein said the Department of Justice could consider injunctive actions to prevent the cultivation and distribution of marijuana, civil fines, criminal prosecution, seizure of controlled substances, and the forfeiture of any personal and real property used to produce and distribute the drug.
Some lawmakers expressed concern during Wednesday’s House debate about the state passing legislation that is at odds with federal law. The bill proposes a system for licensing medical marijuana producers, dispensing the drug and registering qualified patients with debilitating conditions.