Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s adult-use cannabis bill is far from the finish line, but the criminal justice aspect of the legislation was vetted and approved by the Joint Judiciary Committee in a 22-16 vote April 6.
The proposed legislation, An Act Responsibly and Equitably Regulating Adult-Use Cannabis, which Lamont unveiled during his budget address Feb. 10, would authorize the automated erasure of criminal records for those with cannabis-related drug possession convictions and charges.
The overall bill remains a work in progress—with language involving financial issues, regulatory issues, licensing issues and more— but the Judiciary Committee’s due diligence was to get the criminal justice components of the bill right, said Rep. Steven Stafstrom (D), who co-chairs the committee and also co-sponsors the legislation, Senate Bill 888.
“Our cognizance really is on the criminal justice, erasure piece, and I certainly have not heard much opposition to that because I think the language we have in here is language we’ve vetted through fairly well on the criminal justice aspects,” he said during the committee’s meeting on Tuesday.
“On the criminal justice components of this bill, this bill retains and improves upon the language we’ve seen for the last couple years on erasure of prior cannabis convictions,” Stafstrom said. “It puts in place what I believe to be an appropriate mechanism to deal with the issue of driving under the influence, something that is I know of particular interest to this committee, particularly given the fact that neighboring states are undertaking legalization.”
Included in S.B. 888, law enforcement units would be required to have a minimum number of officers report to the Police Officer Standards and Training Council no later than Jan. 1, 2022, so that each unit has state-accredited drug recognition experts to ensure adequate availability of drug recognition experts can respond to instances of impaired driving. Law enforcement units would be able to call upon drug recognition experts from other law enforcement units as necessary and available.
To execute on that front, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council would work with the Highway Safety Office within the Department of Transportation to issue a joint plan to increase access to advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement training and drug recognition expert training for police officers and law enforcement units throughout the state, according to the bill.
Roadside safety and what constitutes probable cause during traffic stops without roadside tests available for cannabis, such as a breathalyzer test for alcohol, has been a reservation of legalizing adult-use cannabis among lawmakers in other states. Last week, roadside safety was part of the debate on the House floor of the New York Legislature.
“As we move through our legislative process, we are not oblivious to what is happening around us, and certainly just last week, New York put in a legalization and regulatory framework,” Stafstrom said. “Massachusetts, to our north, certainly has had legalized cannabis for several years. I think what we are trying to do as we maneuver through this process is to align our legalization