Legalization Of Marijuana Gaining Momentum In Connecticut – Cannabis & Hemp – United States – Mondaq News Alerts

United States: Legalization Of Marijuana Gaining Momentum In Connecticut

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Connecticut state lawmakers are advancing legislation legalizing
recreational use of marijuana on the heels of a recent poll conducted by the Institute for Public
Policy at Sacred Heart University
 (SHU) of Fairfield,
Connecticut. The SHU poll asked 1,000 Connecticut residents about a
variety of topics, including marijuana legalization, and determined
that 64 percent support legalization of both cannabis use and
possession, while only 18 percent oppose legalization. The SHU poll
also revealed that 76.3 percent of residents believe marijuana has
fewer or about the same health effects as alcohol and 70 percent of
residents believe marijuana has fewer effects on people than other
(so-called, “hard”) drugs. Connecticut first enacted a
medical marijuana program in 2012, and calls for legalization of
recreational use in the state have increased in recent years.

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas leads the legalization effort
and has promoted a reform bill that appears to have the support of
Governor Lamont’s administration. Lawmakers and the governor
have competing reform bills and the issue of addressing social
equity in a legalization bill is at the heart of the disagreement.
To complicate matters further, House Labor Committee Chair
Representative Robyn Porter has authored a competing bill that
emphasizes protection of the communities who suffered most as a
result of the criminalization of marijuana and law
enforcement’s arrest and incarceration practices during the “war on drugs.” In Porter’s bill, “equity”
applicants would, for a time, receive preference in the award of
marijuana dispensary licenses. While not explicitly stated in news
outlets, the emphasis with creating a system that would help repair
the damage the war on drugs inflicted on people of color may be
driven by the New York state legislation that has taken the most
aggressive position in advancing this community in the adult use
legislation there.

A bill to legalize recreational marijuana use proposed by
Governor Lamont, Senate Bill 888, cleared the state judiciary
committee in April on a 22-16 vote. SB888 would permit adult
residents of the state age 21 and over to possess up to 15 ounces
of marijuana and would take effect on January 1, 2022, with sales
to follow in May 2022. Under the governor’s proposal, a
commission on social equity would be formed and charged with
developing recommendations by November 15, 2021, to define the
qualifications for an equity applicant and earmarking a minimum
amount of tax revenues to support residents in communities
disproportionately harmed by enforcement of the Controlled
Substances Act to use and possession of marijuana. The competing
bills promoted by Representative Rojas and Representative Porter
each provide greater emphasis on assuring protections for
disenfranchised communities.

Several years ago, Connecticut decriminalized possession of
marijuana and now state lawmakers may be feeling the pressure of
successful efforts at legalization of recreational marijuana use in
surrounding states. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, (see our April 1, 2021 alert on NY state
) and Vermont have each legalized adult use of
marijuana in recent years. State lawmakers will reportedly meet
with Governor Ned Lamont on June 1 to press for passage of a bill
legalizing marijuana before end of the legislative session on June
9. House Speaker Matt Ritter has stated publicly his support for a
special session given the short runway remaining for this
legislative term.

Originally Published 1 June 2021

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