Connecticut poised to legalize recreational marijuana use

The state Senate voted Thursday to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults in Connecticut, the final legislative action for a bill that lays the groundwork for the new industry in Connecticut and attempts to address racial inequities stemming from the nation's war on drugs.

In a statement, Gov. Ned Lamont praised the revised bill and said he would sign it into law. 

"It's fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war [on] drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war," Lamont said in his statement. "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." 

The legislation makes it legal for you to possess and use cannabis beginning July 1 if you are 21 or older. You'll be allowed to have up to 1½ ounces on your person and another 5 ounces in your home or vehicle. 

Loose buds of dried marijuana

Loose marijuana. (DEA file photo)

Retail sales of cannabis in the state are not expected to begin until spring 2022 at the earliest. 

"We will have a regulated product, a taxed product and a system for use by adults, as we have for tobacco, as we have for alcohol," Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, a Democrat, said on Thursday, noting that marijuana is already prevalent in society. 

The governor noted that most states bordering and near Connecticut have already or are in the process of legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana and that the state had to act in some way to keep up.

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"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," Lamont said, "we're not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we're keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states."

However, several lawmakers remained opposed to the bill.

"I would like Connecticut to be the shining city on the hill. I don't think that because surrounding states are going down this path that we should," Sen. John Kissel, a Republican, said. "It's some respects, it's the Wild Wild West."

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 also applied to individuals whose parent, spouse or child was arrested or convicted of the same charges. 

Lamont had threatened to veto the legislation if that provision were included, arguing it would open up the industry and give preference to tens of thousands of people with a history of cannabis crimes, or members of their families, regardless of their financial means.

"I look forward to signing the bill and moving beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice," Lamont said.