After years of flirting with marijuana legalization, the state of Connecticut is finally ready to make it official.
Today, the state’s governor Ned Lamont signed legislation that legalized recreational pot use for adults aged 21 and older. The new law will officially take effect on July 1. However, retail sales aren’t expected to begin until 2022.
Lamont added his signature to a bill that finally cleared the necessary legislative hurdles last week.
Lawmakers in the state Senate last Thursday approved legislation that would legalize recreational pot use for adults. The vote marked the second time that members of the state Senate passed a legalization measure. Last week, another bill was approved in the chamber before it was amended in the state House and returned to the Senate.
The bill passed the state Senate on Thursday by a vote of 16 to 11, according to local television station NBC Connecticut. The outcome sent the legislation to the desk of Lamont, a Democrat who has made no secret of his support for marijuana legalization.
But state legislators have spent weeks ironing out the legislation. NBC Connecticut reported that “House members on Wednesday stripped an amendment the Senate previously added to the cannabis legalization bill that ensured that an ‘equity applicant’ for marijuana industry licenses, who would receive preferential status, could include people living in certain geographic areas who were previously arrested or convicted for the sale, use, manufacture or cultivation of cannabis.”
The provision would have “also applied to individuals whose parent, spouse or child was arrested or convicted of the same charges. Lamont opposed such a provision, even threatening to veto the bill if it was included.
“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement, as quoted by NBC Connecticut.
He continued, “That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”
“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” Lamont said.
The governor also shared that legalization will ultimately be a benefit to Connecticut residents, because revenue from marijuana sales will go to recovery and prevention services. He told residents that the bill will ensure public safety, protect children and those in the community who are most vulnerable.
Legalization Comes to Connecticut After Years of Trying
Lamont has advocated legalization in Connecticut for years. In 2019, he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed a cross-state legalization policy, but that effort never really materialized, and earlier this year New York charted its own path by ending prohibition in the state.
In February, Lamont stressed the importance of forging ahead given the action being taken by Connecticut’s neighbors.
“Now our neighboring states are offering recreational marijuana on a legal and regulated basis,” Lamont said in his “State of the State” address. “Massachusetts dispensaries are advertising extensively here in Connecticut. And, rather than surrender this market to out-of-staters, or worse, to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”
“Half the tax revenues should be allocated to PILOT payments, in addition to a three percent local excise tax option. And importantly, my proposed legislation authorizes the automated erasure of criminal records for those with marijuana-related drug possession, convictions, and charges,” Lamont added at the time.