HARTFORD, Conn. — A batch of new laws took effect Saturday, ranging from legislation that allows minors with certain debilitating conditions to use Connecticut’s medical marijuana program to an act requiring hospitals to inform police when they treat patients for serious stab wounds.
Many of the bills, passed during the last regular legislative session of the General Assembly, are criminal justice-related. For example, one new law increases the criminal penalty for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a child in the vehicle. Another new law, the result of years of debate, requires subjects of temporary restraining orders to transfer their firearms to police or a firearms dealer within 24 hours after being served with the order.
Following are highlights of some of the state’s newest laws:
Beginning Oct. 1, qualified Connecticut minors will have access to medical marijuana to treat conditions such cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy under the state’s existing medical marijuana program for adults.
Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said his agency made the necessary software changes over the summer so qualified minors could get pre-registered before the new law took effect. As of Saturday, they could access the drug at one of the state’s eight licensed dispensaries located across Connecticut.
“The program is a little different,” said Harris, noting how minors need two physicians to confirm palliative use of marijuana is in the young patient’s interest, while adults need only one physician’s approval. Also, the list of debilitating medical conditions eligible for the drug is smaller for minors than for adults. As of last week, three minors had pre-registered for the program.
The same legislation also allows the state’s Department of Consumer Protection to start accepting applications for in-state medical marijuana research proposals.
Criminal penalties are increasing for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol while a child is riding the vehicle.
The new law, which took effect Saturday, also applies to people driving school buses and other student transportation vehicles with or without a child passenger.
The new penalties include longer mandatory minimum and maximum prison terms and required probation for first-time offenses. For those convicted of DUI with a child passenger, the new law requires they submit to an interview and risk evaluation with the state’s Department of Children and Families as part of the driver’s probation. They must also cooperate with any programming ordered by DCF.
Hospitals and other outpatient clinics will now have to report to police when they treat patients for serious stab wounds likely caused by a knife or other sharp instrument.
Currently, Connecticut law requires such facilities to report gunshot wounds to the police.
As with gunshot wounds, the medical facilities will have to provide authorities with the injured person’s name and address, if it’s known; the nature and extent of the injury; and the treatment circumstances. The new law also requires reports from medical facilities for both gunshot and stab wounds to include the patient’s age, gender, wound type and name of the health care provider who treated the individual.
The health care facilities are also now required to retain certain evidence from the incident, such as a bullet, foreign object or clothing.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND GUNS
Legislation is taking effect that was years in the making and was once touted by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
The new law requires subjects of temporary restraining orders to transfer any firearms to police or a firearms dealer within 24 hours of being served a temporary restraining order. The weapons will be returned if a judge determines at an expedited hearing not to impose a formal restraining order.
Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, calls the legislation “a significant step in Connecticut’s efforts to protect victims of domestic violence at the most dangerous time.” She says women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun.
The bill was debated in each of the last few legislative sessions, but did not pass until 2016. Giffords, who was critically wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, appeared at the Connecticut state Capitol in 2015 to push for the legislation.