Connecticut: Pass, Pass…..?

The state of Connecticut keeps trying to pass the legalization of adult-use cannabis but seems to be thwarted each time. Marijuana Moment reported that in the state’s recent special session, the Senate approved a full legalization bill by a vote of 19-12. A week ago, during the state’s normal legislative calendar, lawmakers passed a similar bill, but Republicans pushed back. The session ended and the measure was moved to the special session. Although Republicans got the blame for the delay, several state Democrats have also expressed concerns. Governor Ned Lamont is mostly supportive of full legalization but has expressed problems with the social rules.

According to the Hartford Courant, “Gov. Ned Lamont is threatening to veto a bill legalizing and taxing marijuana because it does not go far enough in addressing the historical trauma of the war on drugs and ensuring equity in the state’s budding recreational marijuana industry.” Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff said , “does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted. To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry.”

Mounds said the measure “creates equity in name only by allowing these individuals expedited opportunity to obtain access to the marketplace.” For example, it could have opened the door for a person from a wealthy community who was once caught with a single joint to become an “equity applicant.” An amendment, however, was adopted in an attempt to address that concern by setting an income limit for those applicants.

The Courant reported that the amendment stated that those applicants must have an average household income of less than 300% of the state median over the three tax years immediately preceding the person’s application or was a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for no less than five of the 10 years immediately preceding their application. Other criteria include people who were incarcerated for the sale, possession or cultivation of cannabis or had a parent, spouse or child who was imprisoned for such an offense.

Sen. Gary Winfield (D) said, “The conversation about cannabis legalization also is a conversation about policing in certain communities, the way policing has happened. The governor has his role and we as a different branch of government have our role. We in the Senate have performed our role and the House has the opportunity tomorrow to perform theirs. I hope that the governor reconsiders but he has his role to fulfill and he’ll do that.’’

The state is coming under increasing pressure for full legalization as its neighboring states have moved headed. Massachusetts is already selling adult-use cannabis and New York is slated to begin in April 2022. The state legalized medical marijuana and as of 6/13/2021, there are 53,955 registered patients. There are 18 dispensaries and four producers. Medical marijuana is exempt from the state sales tax, and revenue officials do not track the sales. Massachusetts recorded $547 million in cannabis sales by November 2020 and topped a billion in sales in just two years.

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